A Dunedin thief who stole bulk packs of rubbish bags to order has since cleaned up his act, his lawyer says.

Taman David Marcos Maclean (48) previously pleaded guilty to five counts of shoplifting during a three-week spree stretching from Timaru to Mosgiel.

The case exposed what local police called a "black market" for the pre-paid Dunedin City Council bags, reports Otago Daily Times.

Thefts from Woolworths-owned supermarkets such as Countdown had caused management to pull the items from shelves.

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"We've placed the council rubbish bag packs behind the counter in our Dunedin stores due to the high number of thefts," group manager Craig Unsworth confirmed.

Among the $2500 of stolen goods amassed by Maclean, $628 was accounted for by the black refuse sacks, the Dunedin District Court heard this week.

Maclean first struck in Mosgiel on February 1, taking three packs of 25 rubbish bags, stuffing them down the front of his jacket and walking out.

He revisited the scene of the crime two weeks later, this time swiping four packs.

Maclean's main target, though, was meat.

Judge Michael Crosbie noted the defendant was stealing to order for "prearranged clients".

The man hit Oamaru New World for $895 of choice cuts, as well as nearly $600 from the Timaru branch.

In Mosgiel he packed rib eye, porterhouse and whole beef eye fillet worth $300 into a backpack and left without paying.

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Defence counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner confirmed her client was stealing to order to address financial difficulties he was experiencing at the time.

Maclean was no longer struggling for cash and had stopped using cannabis, she said.

Judge Crosbie noted the defendant had a lengthy history of dishonesty convictions but saw little point in putting him back in prison.

"I doubt that's going to work," he said.

Maclean was sentenced to nine months' supervision and 100 hours' community work.