News | 21 May 2018

Wellington Mayor bags a first

Mayor Justin Lester is celebrating his local supermarket becoming one of the first in the country to go single-use plastic bag free today.

Generic image of plastic bags

Johnsonville Mall Countdown is among 10 Countdowns around the country no longer offering single-use plastic bags at the checkout. A number of other supermarkets and retailers will be following suit, and phasing out single-use plastic bags towards the end of 2018.

“It’s brilliant to see Countdown doing the right thing and phasing out single-use plastic bags,” says Mayor Lester.

“Last year we led a call for the Government to do something – but for supermarkets to take the initiative themselves means we are closer to eliminating their usage. It’s also good to see Johnsonville and Wellington among those leading the country with this environmental issue.”

In June last year, 90 percent of the country’s Mayors backed Mayor Lester’s plea to the Government for a ban or levy on single-use plastic bags. This was closely followed by support from Retail NZ.

Students from Wellington’s Samuel Marsden College were at Johnsonville Mall to mark the event this morning. They collected nearly 18,000 signatures for a petition calling for a plastic bag levy which they previously presented to Parliament.

The Government at the time said it preferred an industry-led solution rather than legislation, and supermarkets and other retailers are now taking it upon themselves to go single-use plastic bag free.

“The New Zealand environment is precious and we’re keen to support our customers to make change in an easy and affordable way,” says Countdown’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs Kiri Hannifin. “Our focus is firmly set on encouraging customers away from single-use plastic where something is used once and then discarded.”

To replace the plastic bags at checkout, Countdown’s Bag for Good programme offers reusable bags for $1, which can be exchanged for a new one once it reaches the end of its playing days.

“Our first preference is that customers bring their own bag, box, bucket, wheelbarrow – we don’t mind,” adds Hannifin. “If you get caught out, then know that for $1 you’re buying a reusable bag that you’ll never have to pay another cent for again.”

Later this year, Countdown will also have a dedicated plastic-free aisle in each of its 74 stores.

  • Every day around 365,000 plastic bags are sent to Wellington’s Southern Landfill.
  • New Zealanders use about 1.6 billion single-use plastic bags a year which are used for approximately 12 minutes before entering the waste stream.