IT issues mean plastic produce bags to remain for now
Supermarkets ditched singleuse plastic checkout bags from the first of the month but other plastic bags — the ones in fresh produce aisles — are still readily available.
Over the past few weeks the Herald has seen numerous shoppers tearing off extra produce bags and placing them in their trolleys, empty.
While bags are needed to group loose fruit and vegetables during the grocery run, it poses the question as to why paper or mesh alternatives have not been rolled out.
A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs, which operates New World and Pak’nSave supermarkets, told the Herald both still offered plastic produce bags as their IT systems did not allow for alternatives when weighing items upon checkout.
“Store scales are programmed to take into account the existing plastic bags ensuring customers are charged the correct amount, but cannot accurately do this for the [range of alternative bags customers may put their] produce in,” the spokeswoman said.
She said Foodstuffs’ IT team was working on a solution to allow shoppers to use other options.
She could not confirm whether or not Pak’nSave and New World stores were now going through more plastic produce bags.
The Herald has approached Woolworths NZ, owner of Countdown, for comment. Greg Harford, general manager of public affairs at Retail NZ, said he did not believe shoppers were now using more plastic bags from produce aisles.
Foodstuffs and Countdown, along with 15 large international brands have signed the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration to commit to move to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025.
A spokesperson for the Ministry for the Environment said plastic produce bags were not included in the mandatory phase out of single-use plastic bags which takes effect from July 1 as they were important for maintaining food hygiene and to enable retailers to meet obligations under the Weights and Measures Act 1987.
A spokeswoman for Foodstuffs said the supermarket did not offer paper produce bags as there was a weight limit associated with them.
“The focus at the moment is removing excess plastic from produce and ensuring in the long-term customers can bring reusable bags.”
Plastic produce bags have a hygiene function.