Some shops are reporting having to increase their orders of plastic bags by nearly 100%.
Countdown is imposing an effective tax on customers who fail to provide enough of their own bags for their shopping by imposing a $1 per bag charge if customers want to buy one of Countdown’s own plastic bags which we now know are every bit as ‘damaging’ to the environment as the free bags they were supplying previously.
The big green furphy: experts bust degradable plastic bag myth
Next time you accept a degradable plastic bag at the supermarket, think again – you may be doing little to help the environment and adding dangerous microplastics to rivers and oceans, experts say.
The warning has prompted a Senate committee to call for a public awareness campaign to explain the differences between degradable, biodegradable, compostable and traditional plastic bags - and how they should be disposed of - to educate consumers who mistakenly believe they are doing the right thing.
"Degradable" plastics, commonly used for shopping and rubbish bags, contain additives that make them disintegrate more quickly than traditional plastics. Some people also refer to these products as "biodegradable".
While such bags do not remain for decades in the environment as large debris, they can break into smaller and smaller particles until they become microplastics - tiny plastic fragments less than five millimetres in size.
When microplastics enter the marine environment they can choke seabirds, poison wildlife and accumulate up the food chain, turning up in seafood eaten by humans.
A Senate committee last week produced a report into the "toxic tide" of marine plastic pollution, including plastic shopping bags.
"[It] simply turns it into smaller forms of plastic more quickly," he said. "It is not a solution to anything much, unless we are quite happy to shift it all into particle-sized plastics rather than plastic bag-sized plastic."
University of Queensland academic Kathy Townsend told the committee that consumers were largely confused about different types of bags, and using the terms "degradable" and "biodegradable" plastic inspired more littering because people wrongly believed it would "degrade and go away".
The rapid disintegration of such plastic also makes it "available to animals much faster than it would be otherwise", she said.
University of NSW biodiversity expert Mark Browne cited research comparing biodegradable and traditional plastic bags, saying "we put them on a mudflat and looked at the changes in animals and plants that lived among them, and they both caused the same impact".
Yes, people can take their own cloth bags for shopping, but many of these are never washed and provide their own health hazard to shop assistants and other customers. Health and safety regulations will surely not allow check-out staff to pack filthy customer bags.
So what Waiheke has ended up with a Pak ‘n’ Save supermarket with more expensive Countdown prices.
Thanks for nothing those rich Greenies of the anti-plastic-bag brigade who have effectively ensured islanders pay more for their shopping while getting a lower service.
They haven’t thought through the consequences of their actions, shielded as they are from the reality of life for island’s poorest. Nor have they done anything towards ‘saving the planet’. Regular audits of rubbish on our beaches show it is not plastic bags that make up the litter but rather the small bits of plastic from recreational fishing and, dare I say it, bio-degradable bags.
Countdown has been sold a myth. They have fallen for greenwashing and bowed to pressure by the bag bully brigade. I expect the whole experiment will backfire and cause Countdown to re-think their policy.
Unless of course Waiheke is to be the model that justifies a nationwide roll out. It certainly allows the company to increase profits by requiring fewer staff, lower service, less convenience and higher prices.
The law of unintended consequences strikes again. More plastic bags being demanded than ever, higher prices and less service at Countdown, and no benefit to the environment. Ah, the enduring hypocrisy of the Greens.
Plastic bag tax hits poorest hardest