We’ve got the single-use plastic bag issue wrapped up

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th July 2018

SHOPPERS need to step up and shoulder some of the responsibility if Australia wants to rid its supermarkets of single-use plastic bags, an expert says.

While the bag controversy rages, Australian Food News asked retail expert Associate Professor Gary Mortimer from the QUT Business School his opinion.

He spoke to us while visiting San Francisco, where single-use plastic bags were removed 15 years ago.

“Studies have show once a cost is applied to plastic bags there is a decline in use – anywhere between 85-90 per cent. But it takes time to get there. There is a learning curve.

“Ultimately, you’re not going to save the environment by simply removing single-use plastic bags in isolation.

“Supermarkets and retailers have taken the right step in banning single-use plastic bags, but shoppers also need to play a part.

“There is absolutely no point in abusing a checkout operator or stealing a shopping basket.

“Shoppers need to step up and take some responsibility and remember to bring a bag.

“We need to remember, supermarkets like Aldi have never offered a single-use plastic bag, so I am rather surprised at the reaction shoppers are having toward the major supermarkets.

Plastic bag alternatives compared

“Implementation could have been executed differently. Despite months of reminders, signs, announcements and point-of-sale in stores, shoppers simply forgot.

“All supermarkets, including Metcash-owned businesses like IGA, Foodland and Foodworks, need to be transparent in relation to costs and profits relating to these bans. A reasonable shopper will certainly be sceptical in relation to this new approach.

“Reports this week that supermarkets are profiting from this ban are true in a sense that there will be a material cost saving and a revenue created. If you were once giving away for free 3.2 billion single-use bags, and today you are not, then naturally you will realise a cost saving.

“Shoppers have quickly and reasonably reached this conclusion. Retailers now need to remedy this mindset.

“Ultimately, retailers need to be proactive here, open about costs.

“Importantly, shoppers need to understand that supermarkets will need to deduct holding costs, logistics, handling costs, as these new bags are heavier and take up more space.

“Like 1,000 >35 micron bags will not fit into the same sized box as 1,000 HDPE bags. So, there will be extra costs in procurement, logistics, even extra time in bagging at the checkout.

“Woolworths have developed one bag, ‘Bag for Life’ and they will channel some of the profits from the sale of that bag into environmental schemes.

“I think more can be done here, for example making a clear statement that all net profits from the sale of reusable bags, will be channelled into consumer education schemes, environmental and community programs.

“A series of ‘moral messages’ that remind shoppers that, ‘every 15-cent bag they buy, 5 cents go to clean up their suburb’.”

Dr Gary Mortimer is an active researcher in the areas of food retailing, retail operations and shopping behaviour, particularly consumer behaviour in food retailing and shopping.

Prior to joining QUT, Dr Mortimer spent over 20 years working with some of Australia’s largest general merchandise and food retailers.

Also in this edition of Australian Food News