On Friday, Australian supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles announced it will no longer offer single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags across its entire store networks in Australia, which has been met with praise from environmental bodies.
From next year, shoppers at Woolworths or Coles will have to fork out 15 cents for heavier, reusable plastic bags.
Woolworths (who made the announcement first on Friday) says it wants to play its part in reducing plastic bag usage and has taken this decision because it is the right thing to do as one of Australia’s largest retailers.
The approach will cover all stores across the Woolworths Group nationwide – including Woolworths supermarkets and Metro stores, BIG W, BWS and Online. Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters are already single-use plastic bag free.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said; “As a Group we are committed to listening to our customers and also doing the right thing for the environment, and we feel this is an issue we need to take a stand on.
“We currently give out more than 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags a year and hence can play a significant role in reducing overall plastic bag usage. Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously.
Coles, on the other hand, had declined to comment on the number of plastic bags it has been dishing out, following Woolworths Group’s announcement.
John Dee, a ban-the-bags campaigner, has publicly commented that Coles must now reveal its usage rates, after also agreeing to a 12-month phase out.
“If you’re going to have a plastic bag phase out, you need to be able to measure what you’re phasing out,” he told The Australian. “By publicly disclosing their figures, Woolworths is now in a position to transparently report to the public and government on how they are progressing with their phase out. Coles are really obligated to do the same.” Coles has refused to disclose the volume of single-use bags its stores used annually when contacted by AAP.
Woolworths’ Banducci commented: “Whilst we know this is a major decision, we will work very closely with all of our store teams to ensure the transition for our customers is as simple as possible.
“Our customers can also expect further commitments in reducing plastic use in all parts of our supply chain, especially in fruit and vegetables.”
Woolworths’ announcement ensures stores in states that have not passed Government legislation in this space as yet – New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia – will come in line with stores in states and territories where this is already legislated. South Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania are already single-use lightweight plastic shopping bag free, with Queensland also legislated to join mid next year.
Customers will continue to have access to a range of alternative shopping bag options across the Woolworths Group network of stores. This includes thicker reusable versions at different price points to suit customer needs, with the exception of BIG W, which may provide re-usable bags to customers at no extra cost.