Fifty Countdown, PAK'nSAVE, New World and The Warehouse stores across Christchurch have joined the Soft Plastic Recycling Programme, meaning that Cantabrians are now able to drop their soft plastic packaging for recycling into new items, such as traffic speed bumps, decking and tracking, bollards and even furniture.

Launched in November 2015, the initiative has since collected over 29 tonnes of soft plastic from 100 locations across Auckland and the Waikato. More Auckland stores will also start contributing by mid-July. Both major supermarket chains, Progressive and Foodstuffs, are at the forefront of efforts to tackle pollution, and the project is supported by several suppliers, such as Cottonsoft, Frucor, Kelloggs, Mars, Mondelez, Mother Earth, Nestlé, Pams, Pure Delish, Simplot and Sunrice.

“The benefit of being part of this programme is that it includes all those involved in the life-cycle of plastic packaging; the manufacturers, distributors and consumers. It’s a unique collaboration that allows everyone to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills,” said James Walker, general manager of corporate affairs, Countdown. Recently, the company has been awarded a Green Ribbon Award in the resilience to climate change category for its efforts in reducing carbon emissions. Since 2006, Countdown has also cut waste to landfill by 43 percent, in spite of increased selling space.

"The project demonstrates that, if you provide people with the opportunity to do the right thing, they won't disappoint you," said Steve Anderson, managing director of Foodstuffs. "With a bit of Kiwi ingenuity and the support of the public, this project has turned a waste item into a feedstock for inventive reprocessors and manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia."
Made of 50 percent food grade recycled plastic, Foodstuff's recyclable butchery trays have recently won the award for the country's top waste minimisation initiative of 2016 at the Green Ribbon Awards. "It's estimated up to 80 million meat trays will be kept out of landfills every year. That, combined with the soft plastics recycling initiative all adds up to lot less waste polluting our environment, something I think we can truly be proud of," said Anderson.

According to Lyn Mayes, project manager of the Soft Plastic Recycling Programme, 63 percent of collected packaging includes shopping bags, fruit and vegetable bags, while 31 percent is grocery packaging. "Based on experience, we expect Cantabrians to recycle around 75 tonnes of soft plastic packaging annually at the 50 stores once people have got used to the new system. Until today, soft plastic packaging was destined for Canterbury landfills, but it will now be made into new durable plastic products," Mayes said.