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Coles, Woolies step-up bag ban efforts

Coles reusable bagColes and Woolworths have stepped up efforts to acclimatise shoppers to their bans on single-use plastic bags, unveiling new rewards for customers who bring in reusable alternatives.

The new incentives are the latest attempt by Australia’s largest supermarkets to quell backlash over the phasing-out of single-use plastic bags, following weeks of so-called ‘bag rage’.

Coles are offering increased Flybuys points to customers until 17 July, while Woolworths will allow customers to earn bonus Woolworths Points, at a rate of 2 per bag (up to 30 bags), until 31 December.

The Coles program sees customers offered an extra 30 points at check-out, redeemable once per day. Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said in a statement that the extra reward points were a thank-you to shoppers who had adjusted to the new system since it was rolled out last month.

“We believe now is the time to encourage and reinforce greener habits and hope this rewards recognition will act as a further prompt for all customers to bring their own bags when shopping with us,” he said.

Coles’ store operations director Paul Bradshaw said the Wesfarmers-owned chain was grateful that its customers had made the switch.

Offering flybuys points is a small way of saying thank you to our customers for making the switch to reusable bags,” he said.

Both supermarkets have scrambled to combat shopper frustration over the bag bans in recent weeks, having already made reusable options temporarily free amid claims that the ban was brought in as a profit driver.

Queensland University of Technology associate professor Gary Mortimer ran the numbers on the bag ban earlier this month, finding that there was around $71 million in gross profit to be made from the sale of 15c bags. Banducci has previously dismissed suggestions that the bag-ban is a profit driver, and said on Friday that there would be more work on sustainability to come.

“We are clear that this is just the start of our move to support a greener future and we have a lot more to do in this space and thank our customers for all of the suggestions they have made in terms of other areas we need to focus on,” he said.

The ban has become a national talking point, with backlash rising in response to perception that Coles and Woolies have placated those upset about the ban, while some media commentators have even claimed that re-usable bags could be a health hazard.

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