19 Sep 2017

Voting for a new pay-for-your-plastic world

From Nine To Noon, 9:25 am on 19 September 2017

It's less than a week since New World announced a vote on whether customers should pay for single-use plastic bags, and already over 120,000 people have cast their votes.

Customers have three choices to pick from – to keep plastic bags free, or bring in a 5-cent or a 10-cent charge for each plastic bag they use at the checkout.

Single-use plastic bags are used for only 12 minutes on average, and Kiwis use 1.6 billion each year.

New World says if customers vote to pay for bags it will give the income to a variety of community environmental causes, including sea-cleaners who remove rubbish from New Zealand waterways.

New World and Pak N'Save are owned by Foodstuffs, whose NZ Group General Manager of Marketing Steve Bayliss says that while people are using recyclable bags more, inevitably there'll be some – including him from time to time – who need to buy one.

He believes many of these people would be happy to pay for a bag when they knew the proceeds would go towards something useful for the community and environment.

The New Zealand public are very accustomed to using plastic bags, but increasingly aware that en masse they're a problem, Bayliss says.

A unilateral ban would be challenging, he says.

"Where does that end? Does that include a Four Square? Does that include a dairy? What about a bottle store? What about a clothing store?"

Pak N'Save's charge for bags has been effective in driving down usage, says Bayliss.

"The opportunity to have a little fun with bagvote.co.nz and invite the public to have their say on a genuinely important issue was very timely."

Does he think New Zealand will ever be pastic bag-free?

"I think there is a strong possibility."