Coles’ u-turn on free plastic bags

Coles reusable bagColes is receiving much criticism today for continuing to provide free plastic bags to shoppers despite intentions last month to reduce plastic waste.

The supermarket giant has been handing out “Better Bags” to customers since July 1 when it brought in a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Coles had intended to stop providing the reusable bags for free on August 1 and start charging customers 15 cents per bag, but has now decided that it will provide them for free indefinitely.

A spokesperson from Coles confirmed the decision in a statement to Inside FMCG saying customers need more time to adjust to the change.

“When Coles phased out single use plastic bags on 1 July in QLD, NSW, Victoria and WA, some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags.

Many customers bringing bags from home are still finding themselves short a bag or two so we are offering complimentary reusable Better Bags to help them complete their shopping.”

Coles later added that the complimentary bags are intended to be an “interim measure” to help customers make the transition to reusable bags. Coles intends to listen to customers and teams members to assess when customers have become accustomed to bringing their own bags.

However, the decision has disappointed Greenpeace Australia Pacific who say it makes a mockery of Coles’ stated commitment to reduce plastic waste.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Zoe Deans said in a statement today, “This decision makes a complete mockery of Coles’ claim to want to reduce plastic waste and is a betrayal of the millions of their customers who want the supermarket to do the right thing in favour of a vocal minority,”

“Removing the price means that these reusable bags are far more likely to be used once and discarded,” she added.

Environmentally conscious customers have also reacted with anger online.

User Chris Tanasoff tweeted, “Sorry but #coles caving on the plastic bag ban is the most outrageous display of corporate cowardice I have ever seen. The gov needs to make it law and force the change. #auspol”

Celebrity chef Adam Liaw tweeted, “Wait, so the net result of the plastic bag “ban” is now that there will just as many bags in the environment but they will be thicker and contain more plastic? This has worked out well.”

Woolworths supermarket also offered customers free reusable bags until July 8 but is now charging 15c per bag.

Both supermarket chains faced a backlash from some shoppers after their bans on single-use bags were introduced as part of a national push to reduce plastic waste.

This week, Coles confirmed changes to its management team as well as the news that it would be providing $5 million in grants and interest-free loans from its Nurture Fund to help farmers across Australia combat drought.

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