It'll soon be easier to shop guilt-free as Countdown moves to introduce New Zealand's first plastic-free aisle.

The supermarket chain is looking to follow the lead of a chain in the Netherlands, Ekoplaza, which opened its first plastic-free supermarket aisle in February.

Dutch shoppers can now wander down the aisle and choose from 700 products in compostable packaging, including meat, rice, sauces, dairy, chocolate, cereals, yogurt, snacks, fresh fruit and vegetables.

The move is set to be rolled out across all 74 branches by the end of the year.


Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, Kiri Hannifin, told the Herald on Sunday she wanted to introduce it to the Ponsonby store.

At the moment the aisle she hopes to transform has a few plastic-clad items including sauces alongside the tins of tuna and other canned foods. But Hannifin is keen to see it go completely plastic-free as soon as possible.

She admits it will be challenging, however, especially to convince international suppliers to make the change.

Hannifin couldn't say how soon the aisle would get its plastic-free status, just that she planned for it to be soon.

But other changes include getting rid of unnecessary plastic packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables.

"In produce, one of the things we're really investigating is whether we can shift to paper. We're also looking at whether we can help customers bring their own bags or containers for produce."

Plastic bags will disappear from checkouts at 10 Countdown stores across the country as of May 21, with the rest of the stores to follow suit by the end of the year.

That change in itself, Hannifin says, has led to some "hate mail".


"[It's] mostly around convenience about bag liners and dog poo. We hear those concerns but we think there are alternatives and we're absolutely doing the right thing," she said.

Hannifin hopes Kiwis will quickly adapt the way they shop and think more about the implications of plastic waste.

She said China's recycling ban, which came into effect on January 1, and news of supermarkets stockpiling waste, should encourage people to be more environmentally conscious.