The company behind New World, Pak’n Save and Four Square has banned plastic microbeads in its stores a year ahead of the Government’s proposed schedule. All Foodstuffs supermarkets will be microbead-free from 1 July 2017.
Microbeads are plastic beads measuring less than 5mm in diameter. They’re manufactured for use in products like facial scrubs and toothpastes, giving them texture, acting as an abrasive or providing visual interest.
They’ve recently been proven to be environmentally harmful as once they’re washed down the drain, they enter waterways and, instead of breaking down, they accumulate in the environment. Microbeads are harmful to aquatic animals which can mistake them for food and consume them.
If a proposed ban on the sale and manufacture of personal care products containing plastic microbeads, retailers are likely to be required to cease selling them by July 2018. The Ministry for the Environment sought views on the proposed ban earlier this year, and closed consultation on February 28. The submissions are now being considered and a report is expected.
Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin says the business began discussions with suppliers in 2016 with the aim of speeding up the phasing out of microbead products.
"We're pleased to say that many suppliers had already reformulated their products substituting the plastic beads with natural ingredients. Where brands are unable to meet our needs we'll delist the products until new formulations are available,” he says.
Quin says minimising Foodstuffs’ impact on the environment is a priority issue, and banning microbeads is “absolutely the right thing to do”.
“The changes we're making will have a positive impact on marine life - it's great we were able to announce this change on World Oceans Day. That said we know there's more work to be done and we will continue to see how we can reduce plastics wherever we can.”
Other sustainability-focused initiatives Foodstuffs has recently introduced include recyclable meat trays; LED lighting; and new refrigeration and energy systems. It’s also a hub for soft plastics recycling, collecting more than five tons of packaging per week.