Capsicum wrapped in plastic
Research report
6 July 2018

Plastic packaging

Supermarkets are finally getting rid of plastic shopping bags. But what’s next?

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Katherine W.
05 Aug 2018
One shop’s effort to use less plastic

My local fruit and vegetable shop (Torbay, Auckland) has made some changes which have greatly reduced the use of plastic bags.
1) “boomerang bags” - if you don’t have a shopping bag you can borrow one from the shop and return it another day.
2) loose fruit and vegetables can be put into reusable mesh bags to be weighed at checkout. After weighing, the items are put into your shopping bag, minus the mesh bag which then gets reused in the shop. So no need for those thin plastic bags for bagging items that need weighing.
Just a few examples of what they are doing to reduce plastic use.
At the moment customers can choose whether or not to use plastic bags to weigh items in.
The new system has had a very positive response from the locals.

Kay R.
21 Jul 2018
Plastic labels on produce

Those silly little name labels they stick on fruit skins really annoy me. If checkout operators can’t identify a kiwifruit from a tamarillo, then they shouldn’t be serving the public. I have to remember to remove them prior to composting otherwise they remain intact in my garden. We didn’t need them in the past, why now?

Brian N.
11 Jul 2018
Plastic, Plastics, everywhere

The change must be more than simply removing plastic bags. Plastic bags cost the business thus not supplying them saves money and potentially looks good.
I've recently stopped purchasing packaged chips and any snack items in plastic—since they don't indicate anything about recycling or RPET.
The chip packets are constructed in layers of plastic which means they aren't recyclable and might last in the environment forever, or at least indefinitely or for hundreds of years.
I bought a pure wool blanket that was in a non-recyclable square bag that had a non-recyclable plastic fibre handle; what happens to it now.
Consumer pressure? The local Pak 'N Save got rid of the in-store bags, but there was such a backlash that they made them available again.
We need to be tougher on what is considered recyclable: it needs to be able to be recyclable over and over and over again in a never-ending cycle.
A plastic bottle turned into a exercise shirt. What happens to it at the end of life? Re-usable: what about afterwards—Nothing should last forever.
Force manufacturers to use 1 type of plastic, or glass. That would add in the ability to recycle the product. Right now a bottle probably has a plastic label, different plastic bottle, different plastic top, different plastic nib, different plastic nib cover. Degradable plastic: probably last almost as long and may release toxic material into the environment.
The produce department: the little things: the item labels on fruit; the tape around spring onions and asparagus.
Straws are recyclable, but they are so light they are lost in the sorting process. No recycler seems interested, far too difficult.
Things are so half hearted: Starbucks in the US are getting rid of straws, but the cups are made of 2 or 3 types of plastic.

Marilynn J.
09 Jul 2018
Plastic Packaging

This article was well researched with useful information to encourage us all to act more responsibly with regard to the use of plastic. Plastic bottles should be eliminated but I can't suggest an alternative other than glass which would then increase freight charges.

Sam Y.
21 Jul 2018
Fill our own?

Hi Marilynn,
How about filling our own? Much easier. Local farmers here in Nelson and Tasman allow us to all refil our own glass bottles for milk (available at the farm gate, selected green grocers and cafes), local brewers let us fill our own beer, cider and soft drinks. Then we can reuse our plastic bottles.

Jacqui T.
08 Jul 2018
Just paying lip service

I went to a Christchurch countdown just yesterday and the vast majority of the fruit and vegetables seem to be in packaging of some sort, it made it difficult to buy what I needed. I usually go to vege place which is a bit better. I try to buy as little in plastic as I can, take own bags both big ones and for produce. Until the stores show real commitment and give us the ability to choose non plastic it will be hard to change the amount of plastic used.

Sam Y.
08 Jul 2018
Just leave it at the checkout...

Hi Jacqui T: leave all your plastic at the checkout, and make it the supermarket's problem, not yours.

Sam Y.
08 Jul 2018
Leave the plastic behind

I have started leaving the plastic behind at the checkout. I take in my reusable mesh bags, tip the tomatoes - or whatever - into my mesh bag, then after the containers have been scanned, I leave the containers behind at the checkout. I take the plastic off my cucumbers and leave that behind too. It not only sends a clear message, it pushes the problem and cost of disposal onto the retailer. If enough of us do that, retailers will start asking suppliers or distributors to supply loose veg to avoid what is becoming a problem for themselves. Push the problem back up the chain, and that will, I suspect, effect a change.

Hamish W.
17 Jul 2018
Good thinking Sam!

Yes, let's all leave the plastic at the checkout.