As the war wages on plastic bags at Australia’s checkouts, angry online grocery shoppers say the ban is costing them extra and claim they are ending up with even more packaging.
Coles and Woolworths are being slammed for using plastic in online deliveries, as shoppers share pictures to social media of groceries wrapped in an abundance of bags despite selecting the bagless ‘Crate to Bench’ option.
‘Crate to Bench’ delivery hits snags
Despite the move to reduce plastic, customers at both supermarkets have still noted an abundance of packaging with the bagless option.
Both supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have introduced a premium bagless online delivery service, where shopping is packed and delivered directly into crates. A team member delivers the goods and unpacks them in customers’ kitchens, then takes the empty crates back to the supermarket.
Woolworths charges $3.50 in addition to its delivery fee for its Crate to Bench option; while Coles offers a Kitchen Bench Delivery at no extra cost to its standard delivery fee.
“What’s with paying $3.50 for “crate to bench” delivery yet I still got 5 bags????? I don’t want any bags. Hence the point of this whole bag ban!” one Brisbane woman wrote on the Woolworths Facebook page.
Another online customer Jaecinta Peddie reported paying the $3.50 bag-free Crate to Bench service, only to have her produce arriving in four shopping bags “and an excessive number of produce bags”.
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“Did my net bag of onions really need to go in a plastic bag, then in another plastic bag and then in the crate??” she asked.
“Did I really need a single capsicum, corn cob, sweet potato, cauliflower each in a bag in a bag?? Do bananas bunches need a bag in a bag?”
The supermarkets say online customers can expect to continue receiving produce bags with their orders.
“We still need to pack certain products, such as produce, chilled and frozen items, into produce or reusable bags due to food safety reasons,” Woolworths said in a statement.
“We’re currently working hard to remove plastics across the store, and exploring all options. We will continue to review and replace plastics where we can.”
Coles also confirmed: “Some items such as fruit and vegetables will continue to be provided to you in clear fresh produce bags without handles.”
The supermarket also said it would replace existing single-use fresh produce bags with bags that have 30 per cent recycled content.
Coles said it was working to remove excess packaging of fruit and vegetables, and replace meat and poultry packaging with recycled and renewable materials.
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Both Coles and Woolies customers can recycle their bags – both the reusable 15c plastic bags and produce bags – with the REDcycle soft plastic bins the next time they are in-store, with bags turned into things like furniture.
What about using cardboard boxes or paper bags?
Customers are also questioning why cardboard boxes can’t be used for the deliveries, as an alternative to bags.
“Just got my first delivery since the phase out of plastic bags….I felt sorry for the delivery dude as he was on the floor unpacking groceries singly,” one Coles customer asked.
“Now the problem here is the fact you guys have hundreds of boxes you could easily fit all the items into….yet you get your employees on the floor unpacking…..that’s a disgrace regardless of viewpoints at least you can recycle cardboard.”
Coles told Yahoo7 cardboard boxes wouldn’t be a viable solution, as stores would not have enough suitable boxes to guarantee this option for customers around Australia.
It has however introduced an option for customers to order cardboard boxes filled with seasonal fruit and/or vegetables at varying sizes.
Woolies added that it looked at using paper bags, but found they had “a more significant impact on the environment than both single-use and reusable plastic bags, both during manufacture and at end of life”.
15c bag a ‘cash grab’, shoppers claim
Shoppers have also hit back at Coles and Woolworths accusing the giants of making money from the 15c reusable bags.
However, both supermarkets say the charge reflects its sourcing and distribution costs, and they were not making a profit by charging customers for the bags.
One online Coles shopper voiced disappointment of being slugged fees for the Coles Better Bags while placing an order.
“I’m not very keen on agreeing to pay an unknown amount for my order to be bagged, especially when that will just mean accumulating more and more of these bags [which doesn’t really work for using *less* plastic],” she wrote on Facebook.
A Coles spokesperson has told Yahoo7 that online customers could either opt for the 15c bags, which hold more items than the phased-out single use bags, or the free bagless delivery service.
“We have updated our bagging standards to ensure that we are utilising the Coles Better Bags as much as possible and you will only be charged for the bags you receive,” a Coles spokesperson added.
“Coles online’s new bagless delivery option, which utilises reusable crates, will not incur any additional charge to Coles customers outside of the current delivery fee.
“This is something our customers have been asking for and we are happy to offer this service at no additional cost.”
Woolworths have already banned plastic single-use bags at the checkout, while Coles will phase them out from Sunday.