Woolworths' new move to counter criticism over plastic bag ban

Olivia Lambert
Associate News Editor

In a move that was phased out of stores in the 1970s, supermarket giant Woolworths is now again trialling paper bags to counter criticism in the wake of the single-use plastic bag ban introduced in 2018.

Woolworths announced on Thursday it would trial the paper bags in 20 stores, gaining feedback from customers before making it a permanent option across Australia.

“The vast majority of our customers bring their own bags to shop, but we know there are occasions when they forget or visit our stores unplanned,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“Some customers have told us they would like the option of a paper bag when this happens.”

The paper bags will cost customers 20 cents. Source: Supplied

The move comes after Woolworths was savaged by customers for still overusing plastic in stores despite the ban.

Customers claimed the supermarket was sending mixed messages, with some shoppers posting on Facebook pictures of fruit wrapped in plastic under a sign that read: “Help us help the environment. Remember to bring your reusable bags.”

The spokesperson said the new paper bags were made from 80 per cent recycled and 20 per cent virgin paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Customers have claimed the supermarket has sent mixed messages, with some shoppers posting on Facebook pictures of fruit wrapped in plastic under environmental signs. Source: supplied

The bags are recyclable and can be disposed of by customers in the yellow kerbside bin.

The paper bags cost shoppers 20 cents, five cents more than the reusable plastic bags currently available in all stores.

According to the Wall Street Journal, paper bags were slowly phased out of stores after single-use plastic bags were introduced in the 1970s.

They were favoured by supermarket giants as they cost retailers less money.

Pictured is Coles New World supermarket in Melton West, Melbourne, in 1979. Source: PBS

Woolworths’ move to bring back paper bags follows its New Zealand counterpart, Countdown, who announced in June it would offer paper bags as the country found itself in the grip of its own single-use plastic ban.

Woolworths says since the plastic bag ban was introduced in June 2018, more than three billion single-use plastic bags had been taken out of circulation.

Coles told Yahoo News Australia it was looking for ways to make life easier for customers and had received feedback paper bags were not always as durable as plastic.

“Some have raised paper also has an impact on the environment,” a spokesperson said.

“Coles is committed to being Australia’s most sustainable supermarket and we will continue to work with our customers to create a more sustainable future.”

Woolworths is trialling the paper bags in 20 stores in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. Source: Getty

Woolworths stores trialling paper bags

NSW

Rouse Hill, Marrickville Metro, Town Hall, Neutral Bay, Double Bay, Bondi, Rozelle, Coogee, Paddington and Rose Bay are all offering customers paper bags in stores.

VICTORIA

In Victoria, paper bags can be picked up from South Yarra, QV Melbourne, Burwood Brickworks, Armadale, Black Rock. Hawksburn, St Kilda and Hawthorn.

QUEENSLAND

Stores at Surfers Paradise, Pacific Fair, Cairns will also be trialling the paper bag option.

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