As a business, we have both the responsibility and opportunity to do the right thing by our people, our communities and the planet. It’s a responsibility that sits at heart of everything we do, and one that matters deeply to our 18,500 team members.
In November, we announced 20 corporate responsibility and sustainability commitments out to 2020. To ensure we meet these commitments, we’re looking at ways to reduce plastic right across our business, including in produce and delis. We’re also partnering with some key organisations to help us on this journey.
Countdown was the first supermarket in NZ to announce a move away from single-use plastic carrier bags by the end of 2018. This will remove around 350 million plastic bags from circulation each year! Ten of our stores moved to reusable bags on 21 May, leading the change. 42 further stores moved to reusable bags on 13 August and the remaining 129 Countdown stores nationwide will be added to the roll-out by the end of 2018.
Moving away from 350 million plastic bags takes a fair bit of work behind the scenes and by our team in our stores. Our first ten stores enabled us to test our thinking, our training and our processes to ultimately help ensure a smooth transition for all of our customers and team when we make the change across the country.
Countdown customers have already reduced their use of plastic bags by just over 16% since we announced our commitment last year. Our popular Countdown reusable bags are just $1 each and we’ll continue to introduce a range of options to help customers move towards reusable bags.
Removing single-use plastic bags is a big step, but it’s just one part of our overall aim to reduce plastic in our business. In November we announced 20 corporate responsibility and sustainability commitments out to 2020. We’re also looking at ways to reduce plastic right across our business, including in produce and delis.
Our online customers had been telling us for a while that they wanted us to minimise plastic in their online shop with us and we are pleased to be able to start by removing the carrier bags. We’ve trialled a number of different options for our online shopping service and believe that paper bags are the most workable, environmentally responsible option that we currently have available. For more info and FAQs on paper bags in our online shopping service, please click here.
As alternative, sustainable products are developed we will consider introducing them in to our stores and online service, but at this stage paper is the best option available for our online service.
Bag for Good
Bag for Good™ - Good for you. Good for the environment.
Imagine a world where you paid $1 for a reusable bag and you didn’t have to pay a cent for a bag again… well that’s where Countdown’s Bag for Good™ is here to help!
Our popular black reusable bag is now a Bag for Good™. It costs only $1, and when it wears out, bring it back in and we’ll replace it for free, no matter when you bought it from us. We want to make it as easy and affordable as possible for our customers to make the move away from single-use plastic carrier bags.
Under the programme, simply bring in your worn out Bag for Good™ when you shop with us, and we’ll swap it at the checkout for a new one. Once we receive a worn out Bag for Good™, we’ll recycle it in the designated Soft Plastic Recycling bins in our stores. For more information, check out the frequently asked questions here.
Our focus is firmly set on encouraging customers away from single-use plastic where something is used once and then discarded. The much better outcome is to use something over and over again, then recycle it to be used again.
We are committed to reducing plastic from New Zealand as well as supporting our customers to reduce their reliance on plastic. We’ve partnered with a couple of key organisations in New Zealand who are doing great work to help protect our precious wildlife, ecosystems and environment.
Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's
In March 2018 we partnered with Kelly Tarlton’s Turtle Rehabilitation Programme, which helps nurse sick turtle’s back to health with the aim of releasing them into the wild. Turtles can often mistake plastic pollution for food, which if ingested, can have disastrous effects.
Forest & Bird
For Plastic Free July in 2018, we partnered with Forest & Bird, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most respected green charities, to encourage kiwis to reduce their plastic use and help protect our precious environment and wildlife.
Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme
Countdown is a founding member of the Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme which recycles plastic bags and other soft plastics through our in-store collection points. This scheme repurposes the plastic bags into products such as benches, bollards and speed bumps. Countdown customers alone have recycled more than 60 tonnes of plastic!
The Soft Plastics Recycling scheme is currently available in Countdown stores in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and all of the South Island. It collects a wider array of soft plastic than single use plastic carrier bags, and it’s an important part of the way this country can deal with soft plastics. It’s worth noting that when your Bag for Good wears out and you bring it in to be replaced, your old one can be recycled through this scheme!
To find out where your nearest soft plastic recycling bin is located, click here.
Straws and Packaging
We've got a long way to go, but we're really committed and actively working towards reducing the need for unnecessary plastic and packaging in our business.
In early 2018, we removed all plastic packaging from our bananas, which means 15.8 tonnes of plastic will no longer be entering the waste stream, and we will be removing all single use plastic straws from our stores from our stores by 1 October. In the past year, we have removed 70 tonnes of unnecessary plastic packaging from our produce section.
We are systematically working through our own products and brands and making changes as we can. For example, we recently announced that from October we will be using recycled plastic sourced from the NZ waste stream for our packaged in-store bakery goods. This means 177 tonnes less of virgin plastic coming into New Zealand each year.
We're making progress, but finding and developing recycled plastic products or plastic alternatives is a complex process and requires whole-of-industry and government solutions and packaging design innovation. We are absolutely committed to using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in our own brands by 2025 or earlier.
- Our first preference is for you to bring your own from home - bring a bag, a bucket, box or wheelbarrow, we’re not fussy! We think this is the best option for our customers and for our planet.
- If you get caught out, Countdown’s $1 black Bag for GoodTM is your best option - when it wears out, we’ll replace it for free.
- We also have an emergency reusable bag option for 15c as well as a range of other jute bags. All of our options are reusable and designed to be used again and again.
- Countdown’s popular reusable black bag is now a Bag for Good™. For $1, when it wears out, we’ll replace it for free, no matter when you bought it from us.
- Under the programme, simply bring in your worn out black reusable bag when you shop with us, and we’ll swap it at the checkout for a new one.
- Our Bag for Good™ is tested up to 150 uses. Once we receive a worn out bag back, we’ll recycle them in the designated Soft Plastic Recycling bins in Countdown stores.
- Our first preference is that you bring your own bag, but as New Zealanders adjust to the change we know that some customers are going to find it hard to remember their reusable bags every time. If you get caught out we felt it was important to have an affordable and reusable solution so that we’re not putting additional pressure on people’s budgets. The 15c bag is 55 micron plastic and is tested to be used up to 20 times.
- Over the next year we’ll review the 15c bag to assess whether it’s needed as an option at check-out. While it’s a multi-use bag we think as New Zealanders change their habits and as more and more retailers follow the move away from plastic, we’d hope there’d be less need for these 15c bags.
- Any profits from the 15c bags will be donated to charity.
- From August these emergency bags will be made from up to 80% recycled plastic and they can also be recycled through the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme in our stores. Wherever possible we want to contribute to the circular economy rather than introduce new plastic.
- We want to make the move to reusable bags as easy and affordable for customers as possible. That’s why bringing your own bags is our first preference. If you get caught out, then Countdown’s $1 black Bag for Good™ is your next best option - when it wears out, we’ll replace it for free. The new 15c bag is priced as affordably as we can, and any profit will be donated to charity.
- This is a time of change for us too and there are some genuine costs we need to cover, including changing our bag carousel design, training our team, additional resource at peak times, exchange rate factors on the bags etc. We’ve priced our bags as affordably as we can while still covering our costs, and we’ll review whether those prices are right later down the track.
- Fundamentally whether it’s compostable, biodegradable or corn starch bags, they are all still disposable. At Countdown we are trying to move away from the model where something is used once - or twice at best - and then it’s thrown away. The much better outcome is to use something over and over again, then recycle it to be used again.
- We’ve investigated a vast range of alternative bag options and have engaged with industry experts along the way. The advice we’ve received is that New Zealand’s waste infrastructure just isn’t prepared for compostables on mass just yet, and given this we don’t think we’d achieve a better environmental outcome using them.
- While home composting is gaining popularity, it’s not a mainstream solution for most New Zealanders. Few bag options available on the market right now can successfully be composted in home compost, and there are only a few areas in New Zealand that have the facilities for commercial composting. Compostable bags also can’t be recycled through the Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme because they contaminate the mix.
- ‘Biodegradable plastics’ (eg starch-based shopping bags, drink cup coatings and lids, PLA clear plastic containers) will not degrade easily in the home compost bin or the environment, and are contaminants in regular plastic recycling systems.
- ‘Degradable’ and ‘oxy-degradable’ plastics break down into tiny pieces of plastic which are not compostable in the natural environment.
- Given all of this, whether we can sustainably use biodegradable bags isn’t clear enough yet and we don’t want to promote the use of bags that just break down in landfills and/or into micro-plastics. We may look at these types of bags (or compostables) in the future as this area evolves; one of the exciting things is how fast things are changing and how many new alternatives are coming forward all the time.
We’ve trialled paper bags at various times and we don’t think it’s the right solution for our checkouts. Reusable bags like the Bag for Good™ are designed to get your groceries home on foot or otherwise, and are more capable and robust than paper to be used again and again.
While they aren't the right solution for checkouts, after trialling a number of different options, we believe paper bags are the most workable, environmentally responsible option that we currently have available for our online shopping service
We’re really clear that at our scale, focusing on reusable alternatives has got to be a priority. However, we will consider paper bags in areas of the supermarket where they are the most appropriate option.
- Countdown was the first NZ supermarket to announce it will phase out single use plastic carrier bags from our checkouts and online shopping by the end of 2018.
- We use 350 million of these bags for customers every year and we think it’s the right thing to do for the environment. We’ve all seen the pictures of marine life suffering thanks to plastic pollution and the impact on our ecosystems is unacceptable.
- This is just one of the actions we are taking to reduce plastic in New Zealand. We’re also looking at other plastic right across our business including in produce and our delis.
- We’ve committed to phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags at the check-out and in online shopping by the end of 2018. We know there are lots of other plastic bags in our stores, including in produce and in the deli, and we’re working on alternatives there too.
- In May 2018, 10 Countdown stores are phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags at checkouts. All our stores will be on board by the end of this year.
- It sounds simple but we need to make sure we have our processes right for customers, test our checkout design, introduce and stock more sustainable alternatives, and talk to our customers to ensure we’re making it as easy as possible for them to make the switch. If we could do it any faster, we would.
- The first of Countdown’s stores are moving to reusable bags at checkouts from 21 May. Countdown will pilot, trial and revise our approach in these stores to make sure it works well for our customers and our own team before rolling out to more stores over the coming months.
- These ten stores are moving to reusable bags for good - you won’t see us revert to single-use plastic bags, however it’s likely customers will see tweaks and changes over the coming months as Countdown helps ensure a smooth path for customers when phasing out single-use plastic bags across all of New Zealand by the end of this year.
- The 10 initial pilot stores are:
- Countdown Dargaville
- Countdown Aviemore Drive, Highland Park, Auckland
- Countdown Roselands, Papakura, Auckland
- Countdown Northwest, Massey, Auckland
- Countdown Johnsonville Mall, Wellington,
- Countdown Victoria Ave, Wanganui
- Countdown Redwoodtown, Blenheim
- Countdown Ferrymead, Christchurch
- Countdown Grey Lynn, Auckland
- Countdown Gisborne
- In October last year, Countdown committed to phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags from our online service as well as from our checkouts by the end of 2018. Our online customers had been telling us for a while that they wanted us to minimise plastic in their online shop with us and we are pleased to be able to start by removing the carrier bags.
- We’ve trialled a number of different options for our online shopping service and believe that paper bags are the most workable, environmentally responsible option that we currently have available.
- Since launch, we’re proud that Countdown customers have recycled more than 60 tonnes of soft plastic through this scheme.
- The Soft Plastics Recycling scheme is currently available in Countdown stores in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington and all of the South Island. It collects a wider array of soft plastic than single use plastic carrier bags, and it’s an important part of the way this country can deal with soft plastics.
- Countdown’s Bag for Good™ can also be recycled through the Soft Plastics Recycling bins in store.
- Some customers do currently give some plastic bags a second life as bin liners, to wrap dirty nappies or to pick up their dog poo. However the biggest issue with plastic bags is when they escape from the waste-stream and make it into the wider environment, especially the ocean.
- We know this will be a change for our customers however it’s the right thing to do for the NZ environment and many other countries around the world are making the change too. There are other more sustainable alternatives to plastic bags, or try newspaper or au naturel in your bin. We have a handy video here showing how a newspaper bin liner can be made, and you can download the PDF instructions here.
- Countdown has committed to phasing out single use plastic carrier bags by the end of this year. We know this is a big change for customers and we’re keen to help make that change as easy as possible.
- We’ll have reusable alternatives available for purchase at our checkouts if you get caught out.
- We think it’s really important to help our customers move away from single-use plastic bags - bringing them from home, using them again and again and then recycling them when they’re worn out is a much better outcome for the environment.
- Single-use plastic carrier bags are a hot topic but they’re just the start. We’re also looking at other ways to reduce plastic across our business. A recent example is a change to banana packaging which removed 15.8 tonnes of plastic as a result. In the past year, we have removed 70 tonnes of unnecessary plastic packaging from our produce section!
- We have a wide range of reusable bags including our popular black reusable bag for just $1, which is now our Bag for Good™. That means when it wears out, we’ll replace it for free, no matter when you bought it from us. We’ll also have some other options in-store if you get caught out. Our preference is that people remember their bags - bring a bag, a bucket or a box, we’re not fussy.