Supermarket giants have made a major move to eradicate using free disposable plastic bags in Australia by 2018.
Leading Australian businesses such as Coles, Woolworths, Big W, BWS, Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters’ liquor stores nationwide are targeting to get rid of all single-use plastic bags by June 30 next year.
Shoppers will have an alternative offering of reusable bags that are priced from 15 cents to $2. Big W may provide reusable bags at no extra cost.
Woolworths’ chief executive Brad Banducci said the group currently gives out more than 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags a year.
“Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously,” he said.
Rival Coles has confirmed that single-use plastic bags will be phased out from all their stores over the next 12 months. The supermarket’s chief customer officer Simon McDowell follows several months of consultation with a number of non-government organisations and environmental groups on a plan to transition away from single-use bags.
“We’ve been talking to our customers and exploring options for a sustainable, low-cost solution to help them get their shopping done,” said Coles managing director John Durkan. “We’ll be making further announcements as we begin implementing our plans.”
The move will bring Coles stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia into line with Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and ACT, where Coles already complies with bans on single-use bags.
“We’ve been working towards this announcement for some time now as part of our ongoing program to improve environmental outcomes throughout our business,” said McDowell. “We know customers like the convenience of single-use bags, so we’ll make sure we have plenty of other options for them if they forget to bring their own bags from home.”
Coles are already encouraging their customers to use reusable bags when shopping in their stores nationally and they will continue to provide a range of reusable bag options at different price points for sale. They will also have recycling bins for soft plastics at 630 of our stores, which according to them is the largest retailer-operated recycling program of its type in Australia.
Do Something founder Jon Dee has welcomed the move also to ban the usage of plastic bags in Australia.
“Aldi took the lead when they set up here in 2001 because from day one they didn’t give away free plastic bags,” he told AAP.
Dee said lightweight plastic bags often have resulted to polluting waterways and the ocean. It also kills and maims marine animals. Removing free bags will give shoppers an incentive to use their reusable bags, he said.
Greenpeace campaigner Samantha Wockner said the supermarkets’ move will have a significant positive impact on the environment, and urged more governments to act.
“It’s disappointing that leadership on this issue has come from a large supermarket chain rather than from our politicians,” she said.