Supermarket chain Countdown is ramping up the war on plastic with an initiative that's set to change the way shoppers approach supermarket aisles.

From today, the company is rolling out a bring-your-own container scheme across the country after a successful trial in selected stores.

The BYO containers can be used for the deli, meat and seafood counters, which have until now relied heavily on single-use plastic wrapping.

The containers will also be cleaned, dried and weighed by staff before being filled after concerns were raised about the hygiene of customers' containers.


Supermarkets were required by law to ensure food sold wasn't contaminated by its packaging.

Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability, says feedback from the trial was overwhelmingly positive.

"We know Kiwis are passionate about reducing single-use plastic. Re-using your own container is a small way to help and as Plastic Free July comes to an end, I'm very pleased to let our customers know that BYO containers are now a reality in Countdown stores," she said.

"Customer feedback throughout our BYO container
trial was really positive - the only request was to switch to an eco-friendly dishwashing liquid when we give containers a quick clean before filling them. We've made this change and are now using Ecostore dishwashing liquid.

"Food safety is our absolute priority and while BYO containers can slow service down a little while the team get up to speed with the new process, on the whole our customers have been very supportive and know that this is a good change to make."

The way Kiwis shop at the supermarket deli is set to change. Photo / Getty Images
The way Kiwis shop at the supermarket deli is set to change. Photo / Getty Images

The move comes after a six-week trial was rolled out at selected stores to troubleshoot the service and gather customer feedback.

"The priority for us is to ensure that food safety is not compromised and that more waste isn't created as a result.

"Part of our service will include training our team, making sure containers are clean and leak proof, and ensuring that containers are weighed correctly to ensure customers are only paying for the weight of the product they've purchased."


BYO containers is just one of the many options Countdown is working on in its commitment to reduce plastic.

These including auditing its own brand packaging, changes in produce to reduce plastic, trialling different bag options in bakery, installing produce misting systems to remove the need for packaging on fruit and veges, and supporting the return of the soft plastics recycling programme in a number of its Auckland stores.


New data from the General Social Survey shows a change in behaviour from Kiwis around the use of reusable shopping bags.

In April 2018, 7 out of 10 people lived in a household in which at least one person usually took reusable bags when shopping.

By October 2018, this had jumped to 9 out of 10 people and at the beginning of 2019, reusable bag use was almost universal, with 96 percent of people stating they or someone in their household usually used them.

While all age groups saw an increase in their household's reusable bag usage, households with young people saw the biggest rise.