Why plastic bags are being banned - and what it means for you

Woolworths and Coles are about to ban single-use plastic bags in a bid to help the environment, but many shoppers may not be ready for the change.

For Woolworths alone the move, to be introduced to most stores this week, will see 3.2 billion single-use bags out of circulation each year as the supermarkets continue to work towards a more sustainable future.

“We feel very strongly it is the right thing to do to help move Australia towards a greener future,” a Woolworths spokesperson said on Monday.

“It may take a while for shoppers to form new habits, but now is the time to put the post-it note on the fridge or leave your green bags in the car boot, so you remember to bring your reusable bags next time you shop.”

Woolies will be single-use plastic bag free on Wednesday, while Coles will phase the bags out by July 1. Source: AAP
Woolies will be single-use plastic bag free on Wednesday, while Coles will phase the bags out by July 1. Source: AAP

Greenpeace spokeswoman Zoe Deans said the bans should dramatically reduce plastic waste, particularly on Australia’s coastline.

“It takes a bit of getting used to and remembering to pop your re-usable bag into your handbag or backpack to make sure you have one on hand,” she said.

“But we do think people understand the pervasiveness of plastic and that it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment.”

Bans on single-use plastic bags in several European countries since 2003 have led to a 30 per cent drop in plastic bags found in waters off the continent, according to a study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment in April.

While the move has been welcomed by green groups and many shoppers, research by Canstar Blue shows 20 per cent don’t agree.

While the move has been welcomed by green groups and many shoppers, research by Canstar Blue shows 20 per cent don’t agree. Source: AAP
While the move has been welcomed by green groups and many shoppers, research by Canstar Blue shows 20 per cent don’t agree. Source: AAP

Canstar says more than half of shoppers have already begun stockpiling plastic bags at home, based on a survey of more than 2200 people.

While 71 per cent of those surveyed back the ban, 21 per cent disagree and eight per cent are undecided.

Nearly half expect that taking their own bags to the shops will be a hassle.

ALDI has been completely free of single-use plastic bags since opening in 2001, encouraging customers to use their own bags or to buy reusable ones in store.

An ALDI spokesperson said, “These range from a 15c heavy-duty plastic bag, made from 85% recycled material, to a 99c coloured bag and a $2.49 cooler bag.”

Woolworths says the move will see 3.2billion single-use bags out of circulation each year. Source: AAP
Woolworths says the move will see 3.2billion single-use bags out of circulation each year. Source: AAP

When will the change take effect?

Woolies makes the move on Wednesday, when the retail giant’s supermarkets, BWS, Metro and petrol outlets will stop offering free disposable bags to shoppers in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. Coles stores will follow suit on July 1.

“The move will bring our stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia in line with Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, where Coles already complies with bans on single use bags.” the Coles website states.

Which bags are being phased out and which aren’t?

For Coles and Woolworths it is the single-use grey plastic bags that are being phased out. For the retail giants the clear fresh produce bags, which are used for fruit, vegetables and meat will remain.

A Coles spokesperson explained, “Coles will continue to offer fresh produce bags for fruits and vegetables and in the deli for food safety reasons. The new fresh produce bag is made of 30 per cent recycled plastic and can be recycled through REDCycle bins, which are available at all Coles supermarkets nationally.”

What happens if I forget my bags?

Customers who shop at Coles and forget to bring their own bags will be able to purchase Better Bags which are 100 per cent recyclable through Red Cycle bins in Coles stores. The Better Bags, which are made from 80 per cent recycled material, are available for 15cents each.

Coles is also introducing a new range of Community Bags which, which include $1 tote bags, $2 shoulder bags, $2.50 chiller bags, $3 jute bags. A portion of sales from these particular bags will go to charities – including Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dogs Australia,

There is a new range of Community Bags, which include a shoulder bag, a chiller bag, a tote and a jute bag. Source: Coles website
There is a new range of Community Bags, which include a shoulder bag, a chiller bag, a tote and a jute bag. Source: Coles website
For customers who forget to bring their own bags to coles, they can buy Coles Better Bags or Coles Community Bags. Source: Coles website
For customers who forget to bring their own bags to coles, they can buy Coles Better Bags or Coles Community Bags. Source: Coles website

At Woolworths there will also be a number of options. There will be 15 cent reusable bag, a 99 cent foldable bag, the Bag for good which is also 99 cents, and chiller bags for a cost of $2.49. The Bag for Good will have a lifetime replacement offer and all money made from its sale will go towards the Junior Landcare grants program.

The bag for good costs just 99cents. Source: Supplied
The bag for good costs just 99cents. Source: Supplied

How does the move effect online shopping?

For Coles customers who use the Click&Collect option, groceries will be packed into Coles Better Bag – which will cost 15 cents per bag. Those who opt for home delivery will be able to choose their groceries to be bagged or not bagged. Those who select no bags will have their groceries delivered in a crate, but some items – including fruit and veg will still be provided in clear fresh produce bags. Those who opt for bagged groceries, will have their shopping delivered also in Coles Better Bags at a cost of 15 cents per bag.

At Woolworths, online orders will be packed into reusable bags from 20 June. For pick up and delivery reusable plastic bags can be purchased for $1.00 per order. And for delivery, Woolworths also have a crate to bench service which will cost $3.50 per order.

Those who shop online will be able to select from reusable plastic bags or crate to bench service. Source: Woolworths website
Those who shop online will be able to select from reusable plastic bags or crate to bench service. Source: Woolworths website
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