Woolworths shoppers at a select number of stores in Western Australia will be forced to fork out $1.50 for produce bags if they've forgotten to bring their own, in a new trial aimed at preparing the supermarket for the next phase of the state's strict new plastic laws coming into effect next year.
The bags, made from mesh, are currently on sale at a price of 30c for a pack of three at the 12 Woolies stores around WA participating in the trial. Once the sale ends, locals who find themselves without their own fruit and vegetable bags will be asked to pay $1.50 per pack, with the view that they can be reused.
The retail giant says the move is all about preparing stores in WA for the next phase of the state's single-use plastic laws, which will see plastic produce bags banned from the March 1, 2024.
While some Western Australians have spotted the changes and are fuming over having to pay for the new bags, Woolworths insists the new system is still under trial, and acknowledged that it'll be a big "adjustment" for some.
Woolworths 'preparing' for new laws
"We are preparing for upcoming changes in WA, with a government ban on single-use plastic fruit and veg bags set to start in March next year. Twelve of our stores in WA are part of a six-week trial process that is testing a number of different bagging options," a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
"Customers shopping in a trial store can choose to go bagless with their fruit and veg purchase or bring their own reusable bag. We will also be offering reusable mesh bags.
"As the trial kicks off, we are offering all of our customers shopping in the selected trial stores a 3-pack of Woolworths reusable mesh bags for 30 cents. These bags can be used again and again."
Other stores will also have a single reusable mesh bag available to purchase for 10 cents. There is a limit of two items per transaction.
"We understand this will be an adjustment for customers, and we'd like to thank our customers for helping us to prepare for the WA Government's upcoming ban on single-use fruit and veg bags," the spokesperson said.
Customers not happy
Though Woolies has maintained the move is in response to the government's war on plastic, some shoppers have aired their frustration over having been charged for the new bags, with some suggesting they should be free with a purchase.
"What the f***k is this bulls**t?" a furious reddit user wrote next to a sign revealing the price of mesh bags.
"This is where their next billion profit is made," another said. "There’s zero chance I’m paying for that," said another. "Have they also removed hard-plastic cases for 100g of pre-chopped onions which used 10000x the amount of plastic?" another person said.
With some were outraged, others merely said the move just made them more likely to remember their own reusable bags.
Customers' frustration comes amid the supermarket giant recording a net profit of $1.62b in the last financial year.
'Just bring your own bags'
"If you take reusable bags when you go shopping it doesn’t cost you anything, and it creates less waste etc," a person said. "Why do people need to put things in bags? I understand for mushrooms and green beans etc, but why for apples and cucumber?" asked another.
The Western Australia government has gradually been rolling out a number of changes to its laws around plastic since 2022, in a bid to remove 9000 tonnes of plastic from circulation every year.
The first stage of regulations came into effect on January 1, 2022, phasing out disposable unlidded bowls and takeaway food containers, cups, plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, expanded polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags and helium balloon releases.
Microbeads, cotton buds with plastic stems, polystyrene cups and trays for raw meat and seafood will be phased out from this month. While a raft of new changes will also come into effect in March 2024, including the phasing out of produce bags, coffee cups and all disposable plastic cup lids.
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