Our commitment to phasing-out plastic bags

In October 2017, we committed to phasing-out single use plastic carrier bags from our stores and in our online shopping service by the end of 2018. The phase-out will see the removal of around 350 million single-use plastic carrier bags each year.

We're committed to making the transition as easy as possible for our customers, and will introduce new affordable, sustainable options. As a first step, our Countdown branded reusable bags will be locked down to $1 each as at 9 October 2017, with more customer-focussed initiatives to follow.

While single-use bags will remain at check-outs for the time-being, we encourage our customers to bring their own bags. As we introduce changes, we’ll be providing our customers updates.

In November, we will announce twenty corporate responsibility and sustainability commitments out to 2020. The plastic bag target will become a key part of Countdown's broader efforts on waste minimisation, which already includes the Countdown Food Rescue programme and the target towards zero food waste. 

The phase-out will also apply to Countdown’s national online shopping service. Trials are already under way to replace the use of single use plastic bags in deliveries.

Soft Plastics Recycling Programme

In 2015 Countdown was a founding member of the Soft Plastics Recycling Programme, an initiative to encourage customers to recycle soft plastics in specially marked bins. This soft plastic material includes products like the plastic shopping bags provided at our checkouts and packaging for frozen products and bakery items.

So far we have soft plastics recycling available in 130 of our 184 stores, including all our Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, and South Island stores.

Countdown online shoppers living in areas where the Soft Plastics Recycling scheme is in place (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and South Island), can now also return their soft plastics to their delivery driver for recycling, instead of taking them into store.


What do sustainable alternatives look like?

  • Countdown is committed to making this transition as easy as possible for customers, and new affordable sustainable options will be introduced over time. We have trials in train for new, more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic carrier bags, and when we have the right mix of alternatives for customers, we will introduce these into our stores and online.

  • As an example, on Waiheke, we have trialled compostable bags and have retailed them at 15 cents. With greater bulk ordering, we would see these prices come down.

  • We already have a popular reusable option in place, and we’re going to encourage more customers to bring their own bags, which is why we’ve started by putting the reusable bag on $1 Lockdown. You can expect to see more of this sort of thing.

What bags does this phase-out include?

  • Our intention is to phase-out single-use plastic carrier bags at the check-out, and in online shopping. While we recognise there are other plastic carrier bags in our stores, such as at produce in deli, these serve a purpose for food safety, and are more difficult to replace. However, as genuine alternatives become available, we will make changes here as well.

Will you be charging for single-use plastic carrier bags?

  • Charging for single-use plastic carrier bags is not the best outcome for the environment, because retailers will still be providing these bags. We also do not think it’s right to charge for these bags, even if it goes to charity.

  • Countdown already contributes $8 million annually in-cash and in-kind to community and environment initiatives.

Why is the phase-out taking more than 15 months?

  • The transition will take 15 months, as we talk to our customers about change, re-develop our check-outs and introduce better and cost effective alternatives.

What about bin liners?

  • Customers do currently give some plastic bags a second life. The biggest issue with single use plastic bags is when they escape from the waste-stream and make it into the wider environment, especially the ocean. By not providing single-use plastic bags, we reduce this possibility.

  • This announcement will be a change for our business and customers. However, it’s occurred overseas, where plastic bags have been banned. There are alternatives to plastic bags and we plan to help with that.

How does it work with online shopping?

  • Countdown has announced that single-use plastic carrier bags will be phased-out in its stores and in online shopping by the end of 2018.

  • We are committed to making this transition as easy as possible for our customers.

  • We are currently trialling more sustainable options for our online shoppers at the moment. When we have these right, we will be introducing them nationally.

  • From 9 October, customers who live in areas where the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme is in place, can now return their plastic bags to their online delivery drivers for recycling. The Soft Plastic Recycling programme is available in Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, and all South Island Countdown stores.

  • Countdown reusable bags will now be locked down to $1. These are also available for purchase online.

What about the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme?

  • Since launch, Countdown customers have recycled more than 60 tonnes of soft plastic through this scheme.

  • The Soft Plastics Recycling scheme is available in Countdown stores in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and all of the South Island.

  • From Monday 9 October, our online shoppers living in these areas, can now return their plastic bags for recycling.

  • The Soft Plastics Recycling scheme collects a wider array of soft plastic than single use plastic carrier bags.

  • Into the future this scheme remains an important part of the way this country can deal with soft plastics.