Woolworths has begun its phase-out of reusable plastic bags in Australia's two most populous states, completing their nationwide removal.
The 15c bags will be completely removed from checkouts by June in New South Wales and Victoria as well as Tasmania. The phase-out has already taken place in the ACT, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.
Paper bags will remain on sale, with the supermarket giant encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags.
“Bringing your own bags is the very best outcome for the environment, and we encourage our customers to keep up the great work," Woolworths Supermarkets Director of Stores, Jeanette Fenske said.
It comes five years after single use plastic bags were removed from stores in 2018. The move led to the increase in sale of reusable plastic bags which left some experts concerned they were now being treated as single use bags.
“[Coles and Woolworths are] talking in the billions of [single-use] bags not being distributed so that’s a significant reduction on those, but, of course, the critical question there is what’s happened to the sale of other plastic bags?” Dr Geoffrey Binder, environmental sustainability expert from the University of Melbourne, previously told Yahoo News Australia.
“The problem is when we look to change behaviours on the basis of a causal model, when we look to change behaviour by simply banning something, then it’s going to fail."
Customers call for more action in stores
While Woolworths said it was "proud to be the first major supermarket to commit to removing these plastic shopping bags", the supermarket, alongside its main rival Coles, continues to face pressure of the use of plastics in stores.
Shoppers continue to express their anger over excessive plastic packaging, including one Victorian shopper this week who shared photos of single cookies in plastic boxes.
Both supermarkets continue to stress they are working to remove unnecessary plastics from stores and regularly flag large quantities of plastics they say are being diverted from landfill as a result.
However the collapse of the REDcycle scheme, which allowed shoppers to return their soft plastics in store, has only piled more pressure on Coles and Woolworths.
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