Plastic shopping bags banished at Waiheke Island’s Countdown
Following four summers of campaigning, BYO Bag Waiheke Island and local residents were jubilant as Countdown announced that as of 23 May, it is removing all plastic shopping bags from its Waiheke store. Instead compostable bags are being offered for 15 cents each while One-Card customers will receive four free reusable bags. This will be a first for Countdown in New Zealand.
BYO Bag started its campaign by meeting with every group on the island that might have an interest in supporting the initiative. Weekly sewing bees were organized to create unique reusable bags out of op shop fabrics, which now number over 1200. That evolved into annual and popular Plastic-free Fridays with stalls, colourful posters and lots of press coverage. Most retailers actively participated, including Countdown and Four Square giving away their reusable bags on the day. Since then, many of the smaller retailers have become celebrated as “Local Heroes”, having switched to the use of paper bags.
BYO Bag continued its positive presence at the Saturday markets, on its Facebook page, holding a hugely-attended “Out of the Bag” art exhibition and sponsoring speaker Diana Cohen of Plastic Pollution Coalition from California to speak at schools, universities and on radio and television.
Waiheke schools took part with their own art exhibitions, plastic-free lunches and a students’ petition to Countdown.
This past winter as Countdown started to build its new supermarket on the island, the campaign reached a climax with an on-line petition of 800 signatures, asking Countdown to address the devastation wrought by plastic in the sea, killing over one million birds and marine mammals every year.
BYO Bag is continuing to actively support Countdown’s efforts with posters across the island and advertisements in the local newspapers featuring the work of Marie Holdaway, a locally-raised artist.
Deb Lyttle, BYO Bag Waiheke