Petition targets plastic bags at Queenstown supermarket

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A Queenstowner fired up over supermarkets packing groceries in free plastic bags has launched a petition. 

Environmentalist Esther Whitehead, who’s wintering over in France, early this month started an online petition urging New 
World Wakatipu to cut down on single-use plastic bags to reduce waste and curb pollution. 

Whitehead says she’s initially targeting New World because it’s Queenstown’s biggest supermarket. 

Within three days, 130 people had signed her petition and by Tuesday this week she had 236 signatories. 

By the end of next month she’s aiming for 2000 signatures.

Whitehead – who has a degree in ecology and has lived in Queenstown since 2000 – says 30 countries, including France, ban single-use plastic bags. 

“Seeing its success here in France is what spurred me on to start the campaign.” 

Some other New Zealand retailers like Pak ‘N’ Save and The Warehouse, she notes, charge for plastic bags, which has encouraged customers to bring their own. 

“I get so frustrated by the unwarranted belief that NZ is a clean and green country. 

“It’s nothing of the sort – it just hasn’t been degraded yet because our population is so small. 

“Bringing your own bag is a really easy way to reduce unnecessary waste from our beautiful town, and New World could make a stance and live up to its name before competitors come in to the town and do it better.” 

Whitehead says she’s not expecting New World Wakatipu to ban plastic bags overnight but suggests its checkout staff offer alternative options to customers and that it publicise its reduction strategies. 

Antoinette Shallue, Food-stuffs’ corporate PR director, says New World nationally tried to bring in a plastic bag charge to help reduce usage in 2009. 

“We unfortunately had to drop the initiative after a few months due to an overwhelming number of customer complaints. 

“Despite this, New World as a group and Wakatipu, in particular, continues to encourage its customers to bring reusable bags to the supermarket, and undertakes a number of incentives and promotions throughout the year to achieve this. 

We certainly see the benefits of reusable bags as they not only do their bit for the environment, but they hold a lot more shopping, making it more convenient for our customers.” 

Whitehead’s petition can be found at website change.org