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Keeping it green . . .Taking her groceries home in a resuable bag is Bronwyn Gilchrist (left) with Countdown Oamaru checkout operator Glenda McFelin. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Single-use plastic bags are probably on their way out, and some Oamaru businesses are not mucking around.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage have announced a proposal to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next year.

The proposal will be open for public consultation until September 14, and will include options for the date the phase-out is to be complete by, what bags should be included, and any retailers that should be exempted.

“We’re listening to New Zealanders who want us to take action on this problem,” Ms Ardern said. “This year, 65,000 Kiwis signed a petition calling for an outright ban. It’s also the biggest single subject schoolchildren write to me about.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business.

“It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop. But it’s important we take the time now to get this right so we can help all New Zealanders adjust their shopping habits.”

Later this month, Countdown Oamaru will join some other shops in the Waitaki district and voluntarily get rid of single-use plastic bags.

Countdown Oamaru manager Mandy Manpreet said the supermarket was looking forward to the change.

“We want to make this transition as easy as possible for our customers here in Oamaru and will be helping them get used to bringing their reusable bags,” she said.

“Our whole team is really proud to be helping protect our beautiful local environment by being one of the first supermarkets in the country to phase out single-use plastic carrier bags.”

Last year, the supermarket chain was the first in New Zealand to announce it would be phasing out single-use plastic bags.

Countdown corporate affairs manager Kiri Hannifin was also excited about the change.

“We have 181 stores in New Zealand and as we roll these changes out, it’s amazing to see more and more of our customers making the switch to reusable bags,” she said.

New World, which has two stores in Oamaru, has also pledged to get rid of single-use bags by the end of the year.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean believed allowing businesses the freedom to set their own timelines would be more effective than enforcing a ban or compulsory levy.

“I think trying to regulate the plastic bag problem away will be ineffective,” Mrs Dean said.

“Many Otago supermarkets have already pledged to be plastic bag-free by the end of this year, in favour of reusable alternatives, and many of their customers are already taking the idea on board.

“We should also note that plastic bags only make up 0.2% of waste going to landfill and that it’s also important to encourage businesses and communities to reduce, reuse and recycle many more resources.”