Plastic

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 June 2018, Countdown proudly joined a New Zealand industry pledge towards using 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in their own brands by 2025 or earlier. To ensure we meet this commitment, we’re looking at ways to reduce plastic right across our business, including in our produce section and delis. We’re also partnering with some key organisations to help us on this journey.

Plastic bags

Countdown was the first supermarket in New Zealand to become single-use plastic carrier bag free on 15 October 2018. This has removed over 29 million single-use plastic bags from circulation each month!

We've got a number of more sustainable reusable bag options in store. Our popular Countdown $1 Bag for Good black, reusable bag is a great option- when it wears out, we'll replace it in store for free.

Removing single-use plastic bags is a big step, but it’s just one part of our overall aim to reduce and remove as much unnecessary plastic across our business as we can. Since early 2018, we have removed 112 tonnes of unnecessary plastic packaging from our produce section.

Online shopping

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.

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 a Bag for Good™; good for you and good for the environment. 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. 

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. For more information on our Bag for Good™, 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.

BYO containers

You can BYO (bring your own) containers for food sold over the counter in our supermarkets nationwide. We know our customers are keen to help reduce single-use plastic, and this is a small way to help.

How does it work?

  • Simply BYO your own clean, undamaged container to our service counters.
  • We'll give it a quick spray clean with an eco-friendly dishwashing liquid (we use Ecostore).
  • We wipe it, spray with fresh water and wipe it again so it's dry.
  • We then tare and weigh the container before filling and adding the label.

Why do you need to clean my container?

  • It’s our responsibility under the food safety laws to make sure that packaging for food we sell is clean, so we give them another quick clean to be sure.

Our partners

We're committed to reducing plastic in New Zealand as well as supporting our customers to reduce their reliance on it too. As part of our efforts, 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

We've also 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

The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme has resumed collections at 24 Countdown's across the Auckland region. The Scheme is working with processor, Future Post, which converts the soft plastics collected into fence posts.

To make sure the amount collected matches with New Zealand’s local capacity to process soft plastics, the Scheme is being restarted in phases. While it may extend to other areas around the country in the future, for now the focus is on developing a successful collection and processing system on a smaller scale that makes full re-use of all the plastic collected.

For more information on which stores are involved, visit: https://www.recycling.kiwi.nz/solutions/soft-plastics.

Straws and packaging

We've got a long way to go, but we've already started removing and reducing as much unnecessary plastic and packaging across our business as we can.

Along with phasing out single-use plastic carrier bags, in October 2018, we also removed all packs of single-use plastic straws from our shelves and began offering a range of more sustainable and reusable alternatives including bamboo, metal and paper straws.

Since early 2018, we have removed 117 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. In October 2018 we started 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 and we're also working hard to encourage our suppliers to work with us and drive change in their own brand.

FAQs

  • 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 FSC certified, recyclable paper bag available to purchase for 20c as well as a range of other reusable 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, these are sent to our support office in Auckland for collecting and recycling.
  • Our Use Me Again reusable bags are 55 microns and the new government regulations don’t allow bags less than 70 microns to be sold or distributed to customers, including compostable or biodegradable bags.
  • Our first preference is that customers bring their own bags. But if they forget, we have plenty of other options available for purchase in our stores including the $1 Bag for Good, which we will replace for free when it wears out, and the new, FSC certified paper bags for just 20c.
  • Paper bags are more expensive to produce than the 15c plastic bags. Our first preference is that customers bring their own bags when they shop in our stores. The paper bags we will be selling are a last resort option when customers forget to bring their reusable ones.
  • The government has banned single-use plastic shopping bags because they are polluting our environment as they are lightweight and easily transported by wind and water.
  • Our new paper bags are Forest Stewardship Council certified, 100% recyclable and are a good option as they break down easily in marine environments or eventually disintegrate in landfill if they end up in the waste-stream. While paper isn't perfect, we think it's less harmful to our oceans and waterways as it easily breaks down. ​
  • Produce bags don’t fall under the government legislation however, we know we need to find an alternative option- especially one that won’t have a big cost impact for our customers. We also need to make sure our store systems can recognise the weight of whatever we introduce. This is something we’re working on at the moment.
  • In the meantime, customers can either not use a bag at all and put their produce straight in their basket or trolley, or bring their own reusable produce bags- they just have to take out any products for weighing at the checkout.
  • We’ve known the ban was coming for a year, which has given us the time to run down our stock of our 15c emergency bags.
  • We expect very few of these to be leftover in our stores and if any are, we're donating them to our key food rescue partner, The Salvation Army, to help package food parcels.
  • 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. 
  • Phasing out single-use plastic bags was never a financially driven decision for our business. It was in response to customer demand and Countdown’s commitment to reduce our environmental footprint.
  • We don’t expect to make a profit from the sale of our paper bags.
  • 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.
  • Countdown was the first supermarket in New Zealand to become single-use plastic carrier bag free on 15 October 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 phased-out single-use plastic carrier bags at the check-out and in online shopping. 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.
  • Yes, Countdown joined the New Zealand industry pledge towards using 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in our own brands by 2025 or earlier. You can read more here.
  • 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.
  • The Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme has resumed collections at 32 Countdown stores across Auckland and Hamilton. The Scheme is working with processor, Future Post, which converts the soft plastics collected into plastic fence posts.
  • To make sure the amount the Scheme collects matches with New Zealand’s local capacity to process soft plastics, the Scheme owners decided that could only restart in phases. While the scheme may extend to other areas around New Zealand in the future, for now their focus is on developing a successful collection and processing system on a smaller scale that makes full re-use of all the plastic collected.
  • For more information on which stores are involved, visit: https://www.recycling.kiwi.nz/solutions/soft-plastics
  • 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.
  • 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. Since early 2018, we've removed 117 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.

If the Bag for Good™ programme is ever changed, we will let you know well in advance of that happening. If replaced with a new programme, we would endeavour to keep or improve on the concept behind the Bag for Good™ programme.

  • We're happy to have Boomerang Bags in our stores where we're able to. If you're interested in providing these bags in one of our stores, please get in touch to receive our guidelines for Boomerang Bag providers: media@countdown.co.nz