Coles bag backdown, calls for ban laws

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st August 2018

THE focus on getting rid of plastic shopping bags is shifting to government, with calls for laws to ban them after a Coles backdown.

The supermarket is under fire today for reversing a decision to stop providing free plastic bags to shoppers, saying some need more time to adjust to the switch to buying reusable bags.

“Some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags,’’ a Coles spokeswoman 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.”


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The supermarket giant has been handing out bags to customers in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia since July 1 when it brought in a ban on single-use plastic bags and told customers they’d have to pay for reusable bags.

Coles was meant to stop providing its reusable Better Bags for free on August 1 and start charging customers 15 cents per bag, but has now backflipped on that decision and appears set to provide them indefinitely.

Coles originally said it would provide its Better Bags, made from 80 per cent recycled material, for free until July 8 to help customers adjust.

But Coles then decided to extend the giveaway of free reusable bags until August 1.

MORE: Shoppers need to step up

In response to today’s backdown, the general of ABC television’s War on Waste, Craig Reucassel, asked NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian if she would intervene.

Last week she welcomed the plastic bag ban, saying they were the very reason she did not have to legislate a state-wide ban as Premier.

“[Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm] produce about 80 per cent of the plastic bags in NSW, so in essence they themselves would ban the plastic bag,” she said.

“I don’t need to [put a ban in place] because 80 per cent of plastic bags are already banned. I don’t need to put a law in for something that’s already happening.”

Woolworths has not backed down on its commitment to ban single-use bags.

It did though give away reusable bags for 10 days, up until July 8, as customers transitioned from the use of single-use bags.

Harris Farm Markets today also called on the NSW state Government to ban single-use plastic bags after the Coles move to give out re-usable plastic bags indefinitely.

“We’re really disappointed by the decision from Coles Supermarkets this morning to backflip on their plastic bag ban and give out re-usable plastic bags free of charge indefinitely,” says Angus Harris, Co-CEO of Harris Farm Markets.

We now renew our call to Gladys Berejiklian and the State Government to enforce a ban of single use plastic bags immediately. We also call on the Board of Coles to reconsider this decision for the sake of our planet.”

Harris continues with a plea to Woolworths to not follow suit.

 “Also, a public message to Brad Banducci and the team at Woolworths – please don’t follow suit.

“Giving away re-usable plastic bags is an environmental disaster, this just increases the amount of plastic that will now make its way into our waterways. Removing plastic bags from our checkout registers at the beginning of the year was not easy and we are really grateful for all the hard work and support from our customers and our team.”

Harris Farm Markets removed all plastic bags from the registers of their stores in January this year, replacing them with re-usable paper bags and cardboard boxes for customers to use, free of charge. Since then, Harris estimates the reduction to be around 15 million single use plastic bags saved from landfill and our waterways.

Harris Farm Markets has been a long-term supporter of reducing plastic bag use, including previously partnering with Clean Up Australia on the issue and always having alternative carry bag options at the checkout.

Clean Up Australia Managing Director Terrie-Ann Johnson says this afternoon: “Clean Up shares shopper disappointment and dismay at this turnaround by Coles.

“Working with their teams in the lead up to the campaign to replace single use bags, we were inspired by and supported Coles’ nationwide desire to replace single use plastics. Today’s announcement that the spotted plastic bag will continue to be a free feature at the checkout is a breach of faith. We ask all shoppers to let Coles know this is not what shoppers want by saying NO to plastic at the checkout.”