Foodstuffs have recently announced that they will voluntarily introduce a 5c charge per plastic bag consumed through their New World and 4 Square supermarkets, with the revenue generated being used for an “environmental initiative” (previous post on the issue here).
Foodstuffs account for over half of all supermarket sales in New Zealand through their New World, 4 Square and Pak ‘n’ Save brands, while supermarkets in general account for 80% of plastic bags.
This move follows the likes of the Warehouse and Borders who already charge for plastic bags (and North Island Pak ‘n’ Save stores have long charged for plastic bags, albeit for different reasons).
One might assume from this positive action by Foodstuffs that an industry-based solution to the perceived problem of plastic bag over-consumption would negate the need for any regulation. But the thing that jumped out at me from the article was this quote from the Greens Russel Norman:
“What we need now is for the Government to back up Foodstuffs’ good initiative by introducing mandatory product stewardship for plastic bags”
Why would the Government need to mandate anything to do with plastic bags when the industry is clearly finding a solution to the perceived problem? Regulation is costly, not just in terms of resources needed to enact a bill or other measure, but also due to unforeseen outcomes that may arise from such intervention. Regulation should always be a last resort. In this instance I think regulation is blatantly unnecessary.
One might argue that it is due to the threat of regulation that Foodstuffs took this action in the first instance. This may be true, we don’t know. But given the moves made by Foodstuffs and other retailers I think that to now clamour for regulation is just plain silly and unfortunately seems to be a reflection of the Greens approach to everything – regulate!
No matter what the issue, you should always give industry a chance to resolve a perceived problem before intervening.