Monday, April 20, 2009

Secret Packaging Overlords

Sure, household use of plastic carrier bags may only account for 0.88% of domestic and commercial waste - but the ever-increasing campaign to get rid of Nanny Plastic Bag is deemed front page news today. I don't care so much about the article itself; rather, I am concerned with reporter Eloise Gibson's quoting of the shadowy-sounding Packaging Council. I have never heard of this organisation, who evidently care so much about packaging that they have formed some kind of grassroots local body government to discuss it, possibly led by a Packaging Mayor.

According to the 'story', with the Warehouse and Foodstuffs starting to directly charge customers the heat is on Progressive Enterprises - the friendly faces behind Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths - to keep in step. That's all very well, albeit arguably not news, but it gets interesting a few paragraphs in:
The Warehouse, Progressive, Foodstuffs and other retailers have signed a voluntary agreement with the Packaging Council reduce use of plastic bags.
I'm sorry, with whom? Who is this Packaging Council, and whom do they represent? What's their angle?
The Packaging Council says the 2004 voluntary agreement has taken 100 million bags out of circulation and is on track to reach a 20 per cent reduction by July.

[...] The Packaging Council says people would use more plastic bin liners if they cannot get free plastics bags to use as rubbish bags.

[...] The Packaging Council wants more effort to be put into increasing the number of bags that are recycled.
You had better believe that the Packaging Council gets what it wants - or else. I think it's cute how the Council is quoted directly, rather than via a spokesperson - it really gives it that conspiracy feel. But it's nice that the Herald is canvassing not only the supermarkets, but also some sort of independent think-tank.

Oh, hang on. The Packaging Council website (investigative journalism!) rather gives the game away:
The Packaging Council of New Zealand is industry’s voice on policies affecting packaging and packaging waste. We are the focal point for providing impartial, factual information on packaging and the impact of packaging on the environment.
Ah, the industry's voice. Members of the Packaging Council include:
  • The Warehouse
  • Foodstuffs
  • Progressive Enterprises
So, Eloise, when you say that "the Warehouse, Progressive, Foodstuffs and other retailers have signed a voluntary agreement with the Packaging Council reduce [sic] use of plastic bags", what you mean is that they have signed deals with themselves to do whatever makes the most money. So, yeah. Next time you talk about some group no one has ever heard of on the front page of the Herald, maybe you should tell your readers who they are, so they may have some idea why they say what they do. I would have thought Journalism 101 at AUTU would have covered that.


  1. Oh good, I thought I must have missed a meeting where they voted out "tell your readership about the main protagonist in your story" from Journalism.

    I read the thing and was just left wondering "who actually *are* these people?

  2. James, you would not believe the money behind packaging. It's big bucks. As for the shadowy Packaging Council, I mention their not-so-shadowy existence in this post from last week:

  3. Omg you did some research, James?!?

  4. Careful, Will. Big Packaging don't fuck around. If you get on their bad side, they'll send a couple of dudes around who'll stuff Foodtown plastic bags down your throat until you suffocate, then leave your corpse in a wheelie bin on the street, as a warning.

  5. I, for one, welcome our new packaging overlords.

    On a wildly unrelated and non-herald note, I happened across this 'story' on yahooxtra 'news'. The story is about a motel owner who has banned all residents of wainuiomata. The highlight of the 'article' is a quote from Trevor Mallard, as below.

    Labour MP Trevor Mallard, born and bred in Wainuiomata, said the move was absolutely outrageous.

    "It's stupid and very, very unfair. It shows the sort of blind prejudice I thought we didn't have in New Zealand any more. I'm not surprised the (owner's) Australian," he told the paper.

    Um, what?

  6. Ha ha that's brilliant