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Shopping smarter

Shopping smarter

Updated 18 July 2012 2:42pm

It's a simple equation: less rubbish in means less rubbish out.

Being a little smarter about what you buy and how you shop can make a big difference to what you have to throw out. Simply cutting down on plastic bags from the supermarket would be a great start.

Try these tips

There are lots of easy things you can do. For example:

  • Cut down on packaging - an excellent first step. The average New Zealander buys around 140kg worth of packaging every year. Choose products with the least packaging or recyclable packaging - those made of cardboard, paper, glass, aluminium, steel and number 1 or 2 plastics
  • Buy products in larger sizes or in bulk and choose concentrates or refills - that also helps to reduce packaging. For example, instead of buying multi-packs of chippies, buy one big box and keep them fresh for when they're needed in a big plastic container
  • Buy products made with recycled materials. For recycling to work properly we have to buy the products it's used for.
  • Consider alternatives to buying pre-packaged food or putting it in plastic bags. For example, most fruit and veges don't need plastic bags. Or, you could reuse the plastic bags at the supermarket as your freezer bags to save buying extra bags
  • Buy reusable rather than disposable products. For example, instead of buying countless bottles of water, reuse a single bottle and keep it in the fridge.
  • Check labels. There are lots of companies designing products with the environment in mind. Many of them carry the government-endorsed environmental choice label. Look for it when you're shopping.

For a list of products that meet the criteria and are easy on the environment, go to

Plastic bags: if you don't need one, don't take one

Over 22 million plastic shopping bags are used in New Zealand every week - more than a billion a year. A typical bag will take over 500 years to break down in a landfill, so you can see why they're fast becoming a major environmental problem.

The best thing you can do if you're offered a plastic bag, is to say no.

  • Take your own bags or boxes (cloth or cardboard) or even your laundry basket when you shop. Whatever you use, make there's enough room to hold all your purchases each time you shop. It's a good idea to keep them in the car. As an alternative, or if you get caught out without a shopping bag, try these tips:
  • Ask your supermarket if they have reusable bags - most do these days
  • Put more items in each plastic bag to cut down the number you use
  • Don't use plastic bags when the products you're buying come in bags that already have a handle, eg. nappies, dog food, potato sacks
  • Buy a heavy duty plastic bag you can use over and over again.

There are also all sorts of ways you can reuse plastic bags, instead of just throwing them away and adding to our region's growing rubbish problem - see the information in reuse.