Australian supermarket chain reverses free plastic bag ban
Coles is being criticized by Greenpeace, which called the decision irresponsible and disappointing
SYDNEY, Australia—A major Australian supermarket chain came under fire from environmentalists on Wednesday for reversing a decision to stop providing free plastic bags to shoppers.
Coles has been handing out reusable plastic bags to most of its Australian customers since July 1 when it introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags and told customers they’d have to begin paying for the reusable bags.
Coles planned to stop providing the reusable Better Bags for free on Aug. 1 and start charging customers 15 Australian cents (US11 cents) per bag, but has now reserved that decision and appears set to provide them indefinitely.
Coles and its larger rival Woolworths account for around 70 per cent of the Australian supermarket trade. The two chains announced in June new goals to reduce plastic products and packaging in response to requests from customers for a greener shopping experience.
Before they took action, half of Australia’s eight states and territories had already banned single-use plastic shopping bags by law.
From July 1, Queensland and Western Australia joined South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory with state-wide bans.
But the most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria—where more than half of Australians live—have resisted change.
Coles said in a statement on Wednesday that when the ban on single-use plastic bags came in, some customers said they needed more time to transition to reusable bags.
“We’ve been delighted to see customers grow more accustomed to bringing their reusable bags from home so they are relying less on complimentary bags at the checkout,” the statement said.
“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,” it added.
Greenpeace on Wednesday criticized Coles’ decision as irresponsible and disappointing, saying the retailer was perpetuating the problem of plastic waste by providing free bags.
“It’s interesting because the ban on single-use bags came as a result of pressure from customers and people calling for companies to take responsibility and stop using plastic bags,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Zoe Dean said.
“While a minority of people are struggling to cope, we know it’s just a matter of time for people to adapt to the change,” she added.