90% of plastic from 10 rivers


As debate on the wisdom of banning so-called single-use plastic bags goes on, it’s interesting to note that 90% of the plastic in the sea comes from just 10 rivers.

A shocking study has revealed 90 per cent of the world’s plastic waste comes from just 10 rivers in Asia and Africa.

As governments around the world rush to address the global problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, researchers have now pinpointed the river systems that carry the majority of it out to sea. 

About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources – such as the Yangtze and the Ganges – could almost halve it, scientists claim. . .


This provides proof for Dr Patrick Moore’s view (via Not PC) that the problem isn’t plastic, it’s litter.

It’s not how many times a bag is used, but how it is disposed of once it’s no longer useful that causes pollution.

Bad bag charge gets worse


North Island New Worlds dropped the 5 cent charge on plastic bags after customers voted with their feet and went to other supermarkets.

We were less bolshie in the south but obviously there were complaints from more than the small group of customers which Foodstuffs general manager said has now prompted the company to drop the charge in South Island New World’s too.

However, the charge will remain in Pak’N Save and Four Square supermarkets because they had not experienced the same negative feedback.

I’ve been using reusable bags most of the time for several years but the principle of being charged more than the plastic bags cost so the company could donate money to charity annoyed me.

Now it’s not just the principle that I”m tetchy about, it’s the fact that they’ve removed it from some supermarkets but not all of them.

Groceries at Four Square stores are usually more expensive than at other supermarkets because they tend to be the smaller neighbourhood or rural stores which don’t usually have competitors near by.

In town many of the people who use them are likely to be unable to get to bigger supermarkets easily, perhaps because they’re elderly or don’t have a car.

In the country the cost of going further to another supermarket would be greater than savings to be made from the lower prices.

If there’s one positive thing about the bag charge debacle, it’s that it shows the positive power of competition. Obviously New World supermarkets have competition and enough customers changed to competitors to force Foodstuffs to drop the bag charge there.

Having done that it looks self-serving to continue the charge in Four Square stores just because most of their customers can’t easily take their custom elsewhere.

Bagging customer service


Paper Plus has a new look  and a new focus on books.

The Oamaru store in one of the first in the country to get a makeover. It looks quite different but has retained the friendly, helpful customer service to which I’ve been accustomed.

I bought several books today and was given a reusable bag in which to carry them.

I went from there to the supermarket where I spent a similar sum of money and was charged an extra 15 cents for plastic bags.

Next time I’ll have to remember to take my Paper Plus bag to the supermarket.

Plastic bag shortage hits charity


Sign on the window of a St Vincent de Paul op shop in Dunedin:

We Need Plastic Bags.

Another unexpected consequence of the campaign to get rid of plastic supermarket bags.

Time for the south to get bolshie


North Islanders’  opposition to paying for plastic bags at supermarkets led to the charge being dropped but we’re still paying 5 cents a bag in the south.

It’s amounted to $50,000 in two months. The money has gone to conservation projects and there’s been a 60% drop in plastic bag consumption.

Kent Mahon, of New World, says he believe North Islanders will accept the changes eventually.

“Once they (North Islanders) fully understand that the profits are going back into community work, such as the DOC projects, then it’s a change they’re happy to make,” he says.

Or maybe South Islanders will get bolshie and the charge will be dropped down here too.

I don’t have a problem with donations to good causes or a drop in consumption of something we might not have needed but I still object to the charge.

I prefer to make my own choices about which charities I support with my money.

And I am not at all impressed by being asked to pay for a plastic bag which I’ll reuse at least once, and often several times, when supermarkets carry on unnecessarily encasing fresh fruit and vegetables in plastic wrap and foam trays which gets chucked out as soon as I get home.

Let’s all get bolshie about bags


First it was Wellington, now it’s Auckland, what about the rest of us?

Foodstuffs dropped the 5c charge on plastic bags in Wellington when supermarket shoppers there got bolshie about them (i.e. went to competitors who didn’t charge them). Now they’ve dropped the charge in Auckland too.

It’s time for the rest of us to bolshie too.

I’ve got nothing against reusable bags, I was using them most of the time.

It’s not the charge per se.

It is being charged more than it cost so the supermarket could then donate the surplus to their choice of environmental charges.

It is also being charged for a bag I reuse when the supermarket wraps things which don’t need it in packaging which gets dumped as soon as I get it home.

And now it’s that they’re not charging people in Auckland and Wellington but they are charging the rest of us.

If I had a convenient alternative I’d be taking my business elsewhere.

I’m not going to drive out of my way for my groceries but if I get any tetchier about it I might get the courage to follow the example of a friend who leaves any unnecessary packaging at the checkout.

Things to do with supermarket bags


1.Take to vegetable market which reuses them.

2. Line rubbish bin.

3. Hold dirty clothes when travelling.

4. Keep shoes in when travelling to protect clothes.

5. Carry bathing suit.

6. Carry sports gear.

7. Carry books for donation to Rotary book sale.

8. Carry books bought from Rotary book sale.

9. Carry magazines for donation to hospital.

10 Carry lunch when tramping

11 – infinity  . . .

Things to do with foam trays and used plastic wrap which supermarket uses needlessly:

1. Dump.

Things supermarket does with 5 cents it charges for bags:

1. ?

Do you want a sermon with that?


A travel company’s blurb on a walking tour of Italy says:

Whilst at your discretion [the company] recommends arriving/departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transport’s minimal carbon emissions.

Is that the end of the sermon, or are they going to recommend that we don’t drop rubbish, eat too much, drink immoderately or do any of the other things which might impact on the health of the planet or ourselves?

While one company’s preaching at us, another is making us pay for their penance.

I don’t have a problem with supermarkets, or other businesses, charging customers for plastic bags – there’s a cost to them, someone has to pay, it might as well be the users and if that encourages more people to use reusable bags which in turn reduces rubbish that might be a good thing.

I say might because I don’t know if the total impact of manufacturing and eventually recycling or disposing of reusable bags is actually better for the environment than that of making and recycling or disposing of plastic bags.

But that’s an argument for another time, it’s paying the penance  about which I’m quibbling now.

 Foodstuffs (New Zealand) managing director Tony Carter will only say that it will be making “substantial contributions” to environmental causes, with the majority of the money charged for bags earmarked for this use.

* I’m a little confused by this because it appears customers are being charged extra for something that will be better for the environment and then the company is using the extra money to contribute to “environmental causes”. *

If this is a good policy for bags, why not give the majority of the profits from everything to environmental causes because everything they sell will impact on the environment?

Or, if resusable bags really are so much better for the environment, why not just charge the cost price and let customers choose what to do with the money they save by not having to pay the supermarket extra so they can give it away?

If , however, charging more so supermarkets can donate more is a good thing, why stop there? Why not donate some of the profit from pet food to the SPCA and from anything which doesn’t meet the low fat, low sugar, high fibre prescription for healthy eating to the Cancer Society or Heart Foundation?

Is that any sillier than donating most of the profit from reusable plastic bags to “environemntal causes”?

I don’t have anything against businesses making profits or choosing to give some of those profits to worthy causes, but the idea of charging more than they need to then giving the excess away is a bit too much like a government taking more tax and redistributing it for my liking.

I use reusable bags, at least I do when I remember to take them, and being charged for the plastic ones will almost certainly help me remember them more often.

I don’t have a problem with the user-pays-save-the-planet policy, it’s turning it into a mission I question.

Businesses should do what’s best for them and, like all of us, minimise their negative impact on the environment while they’re doing it.

But they can keep the sermons and if they choose to pay a penance, they need to understand they’re not doing us any favours by charging us more to let them do it.

Lou Taylor at No Minister  reckons retailing is a bloodsport and:

The retailers who survive are the ones who can evolve with the times, control their overheads and are prepared to accept lower profits from time to time.

They might also be the ones that forget the sermons and don’t expect us to pay their penance.

P.S. Apropos of reusable bags, Liberty Scott shows the Greens don’t get the idea of choice.

* I was confused, this policy applies to plastic bags not resuable ones.

UPDATE: The Visible Hand in Economics posts on industry based solution vs regulation

UPDATE 2: Poneke has made a welcome return and posts on a related matter: indulgences we can do without.

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