Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paper or Plastic?

There is a ridiculous sentiment going around at the moment by industry around ‘being green’. We, the public are being told that numerous costs are going to be put upon us because it’s going to help the environment.

Tony Carter, Managing Director of Foodstuffs New Zealand, says of the new initiative to charge consumers 5 cents per plastic bag, "We think we are doing the right thing for New Zealand, the environment and for our customers, it's quite a big step for us Foodstuffs can be proud of taking this leadership position."

For New Zealand….for the environment…and for our customers…according to Carter, there is no benefit for Foodstuffs, it’s not about them, it’s for us…our country…and mother earth…my aren’t they philanthropical!

I would challenge that, and challenge it hard.

The only reason any company ‘makes a stand’ like this is for publicity, to tick the current trend of ‘being green’.

See, how this all falls over, is that if the suggestion logically makes no sense, it’s probably not the real reason. And the reason this makes no sense is because Foodstuffs is doing nothing, not one thing, to stop people using plastic bags…all they are saying is that if you need to commit your environmental ‘sin’ a 5 cent penance will clear your conscience.

On a personal level I don’t have a big problem with not using plastic bags, we tend to shop at Pak’n’Save and use boxes, cloth bags and reuse other plastic bags. I do have a problem though, with groups…be they businesses, government departments, lobby groups or anyone else, using the environment as a convenient excuse to allow them to tick that green box. If Foodstuffs were truly trying to help the environment then the answer at the checkout is simple…paper bags.

I am also sick of these groups ‘fining’ us for being bad, instead of helping us to follow the rules. Plastic is bad, pay your 5 cent fine and everyone can sleep better. How about no fine, but if I bring my cloth bag you give me a discount…surely that’s more likely that I would stop using the evil plastic. This is a mini version of the Emissions Trading Scheme, there is nothing that the government has done to help us stop emitting carbon…they have just said if you do…pay your fine, and we’ll all sleep better. It’s Ludicrous.

There is one more thing to think about, Foodstuffs have said that they are going to give the proceeds to charity, fair enough, nice even…but what does that mean?

Currently Foodstuffs uses 200 million plastic bags, Tony Clark says they’d like this idea to cut that use by 80%. That means in an ideal world Foodstuffs would still be using 40 million bags. At 5 cents each that’s $2 million dollars donated to charity. What does a business do then after it donates money to charity…it claims it back, this ‘charitable’ philanthropic act may reduce Foodstuffs tax bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars…and they haven’t told a fib…they may have just left something out. What about me, when I donate to charity I claim money back in my taxes, therefore from now on, when I go to a Foodstuffs store, and buy my bag…it’s me donating to charity, it’s my 5 cents.

I will be waiting with anticipation for my charitable donation receipt next time I am in my local 4 square.