Cas Carter: I've reached a plastic bag tipping point
OPINION: We've finally reached a tipping point that has saved the day for failed eco warriors like me.
I was smouldering in guilt this week reading about the Kapiti family who managed to last six months without using plastic.
Rachel Benefield and Albert Ubels and their family took glass jars and bags to shops that sold products in bins – therefore eradicating the need for plastic containers.
I'm aware enough of the evils of plastic to feel bad every time I purchase something wrapped in the stuff.
I know that plastic fills landfills for centuries because it breaks down so slowly. And I have seen the pictures of sea life that have slowly gagged on bags that have floated into their world.
But I am still not organised enough to carry around glass bottles in my boot and buy in bulk bin stores.
I have regular rushes of guilt when I forget the cloth bags as I race into the supermarket and slink shamefully home with my plastic bags knowing that somewhere in the ocean a turtle is choking on something similar.
Like any accomplished failure, I decided it was someone else's fault. Life is busy and I need help to save the environment. Isn't it the manufacturers and retailers creating this situation – not me.
Surely they should be listening to their customers and see that it makes good business sense to provide environmentally friendly packaging.
And then voila – the same day as the story about Rachel and Albert appeared on Stuff, Countdown announced they were doing away with plastic bags.
Supermarkets - big time suppliers of the evil sea-life choking bags – have been dragging the chain for some time in terms of the environment.
New World's recent survey asking if they should charge for plastic bags was just lame.
Pak'n Save has been charging for bags for years but it's such a pittance it doesn't stop you using them.
Perhaps supermarkets have been thinking it's futile to reduce plastic bags when almost everything they sell comes in plastic. But with this move alone, Countdown says it will prevent 350 million bags from entering the environment.
Compostable and paper bags are being trialled in Super Value and Fresh Choice stores because customers liked the idea.
Although dammit, the Scottish government reports making paper bags uses four times as much water and releases more than three times as many greenhouse gas emissions as making plastic bags.
Slowly manufacturers have also responded to landfill concerns. This week Kiwi company Ceres announced it's producing a compostable packet for its white quinoa.
Supermarkets, with their enormous buying power, could certainly 'encourage' manufacturers to toward better packaging.
It seems a minuscule drop in the ocean, but these businesses are clearly responding to their customers changing needs. We customers don't want to be filled with guilt every time we buy groceries – we need help.
I do frequently have a sense of despair that even if I eradicated all plastic, around the world in much more populated countries they'd still be churning out the stuff.
But on the flip side, if we keep supporting companies that use paper bags, boxes and compostable packaging, it'll be a competitive advantage for the 'good guys' and hopefully the rest of them will get the message.
Countdown says they've been tracking customer sentiment for two years and their most recent research, showed 83 per cent customers support phasing out the plastic bags.
While I'm all for individual choice, this individual is grateful to have been given a helping hand from a retailer who has listened to its customers and is doing its bit for the planet.