Rourou kai weave their way through the aisles

More and more food stores across the country are ditching the plastic bag and are looking at alternative options.

One Christchurch produce store thinks they have found the answer to the plastic bag problem, with the introduction of Kai Baskets - an initiative woven together by whānau throughout Waitaha. 

They've got the seal of approval. Even more so by the owner of the Raeward Fresh Store who welcomes the idea of a more sustainable option.

The owner of Raeward Fresh, Simon Turnbull says, "The customers are really enjoying them. It's a certain type of customer, the customers who are already embracing change and moving away from plastic. The customers who you already see arrive with reusable bags. They seem to be the ones who love the product."

Just like the trolleys, the flax baskets are free to use for each customer. They're made to hold loose fruit and vegetables. 

Turnbull says, "Flax is so durable and it can be easily fixed.  So for example, if we have a damaged basket we can re-weave the fibers back together, we can put it in boiling water to disinfect it, we can do all sorts of things to preserve the life of that basket rather than chucking it in the landfill and then at the end of life we can even find a good home for it to return back to the earth."

Sally Pitama (Hotu Mamoe, Kai Tahu, Ngāti Toa) has played an integral part in the establishment of the Kai Baskets project. As a kaiāwhina, she assisted those who took part in the creation and production of the kai baskets. 

"Some of them are weavers, some of them are not. They go in and do the harvesting and the boiling. It's a mix of iwi producing the kai baskets.

We just wanted the kaupapa to be small first and encourage people, and our own particularly, so we can put our taonga out there." 

Since the launch of the Kai Baskets project just last week, they've proven popular both in store, and on social media. 

Kai baskets coordinator Lana Hart, says, "We have people involved in the project who are coming at it from an environmental perspective and are really a part of the 'end plastic' movement.  We have iwi from the North Island and from Ngāi Tahu and Canterbury that have helped design and weave the baskets."

Hart believes that it's an initiative that could, in time, lead to job opportunities for iwi. 

"The opportunity for growing this into a project with a social impact is really great.  So we can look at paying people for their time and expertise, preserving the ancient tradition of weaving, which Māori have used for centuries to gather food with and to value that," says Hart.

And it looks as though it could become a permanent fixture in this store.

Turnball says, "As long as the customers continue to embrace them, then I think it definitely has a future."