Author: Claire Bell
Australia’s two biggest supermarkets announced this week that they will be phasing out single-use plastic bags. While this may have surprised many, going plastic bag free is more widespread around the country and globally than might be expected. Either way, it is a great step forward in the war against single-use plastic.
Woolworths plans to phase out providing lightweight plastic bags over the next 12 months but will offer customers a more durable plastic bag for 15 cents. The experience in other countries such as the UK has found that plastic bag use dropped by up to 85% after a 5p fee was introduced. In Ireland a 90% reduction occurred in the first 6 months of a 15p charge for single-use plastic. Woolworths currently give out 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags each year in Australia.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said the decision was about doing the right thing for the environment.
"We've been looking at the feedback we get back from our customers as well as the impact on the environment, and we think it's an incredibly important thing to do," he said.
Within three hours of the announcement Coles supermarkets followed with a similar announcement of their own and this was followed later in the day by Harris Farm Markets.
Harris Farm Markets co-CEOs Angus, Luke and Tristan Harris said in a statement: “Our shoppers have also made a significant impact by saying no to plastic bags at the checkout, with our #BanTheBag campaign delivering $40,000 in donations to Clean up Australia since April. From 1 January 2018, we will also offer a range of free small single-use paper bags and reusable paper bags sold at cheaper than 15 cents or cost price.”
Other retailers have looked at bag reduction initiatives as well. Hill Street Grocer, the independent gourmet grocery chain in Tasmania have looked to innovate by providing different options to customers who forget their bags, including paper bags, cardboard boxes and community-based bag libraries. A survey of their customers revealed that 88% were in favour of their becoming plastic bag free. Aldi Supermarkets have never provided free single-use plastic bags in their stores, Bunnings introduced a 10 cent levy on disposable plastic bags in 2003 and IKEA stopped using free disposable plastic bags in 2013.
The pressure to both reduce and ban single-use plastics has been mounting for some time. With campaigns such as Plastic Free July, #BanTheBag and the ABC’s War on Waste gathering widespread support from the public. Other single-use items such as plastic straws, disposable cups and water bottles are also being targeted to be replaced with reusable options.
Single-use plastics have become a significant problem particularly in the world’s oceans and waterways. In addition they don’t breakdown in landfill and require significant resources to manufacture. It is hoped the announcements from these supermarkets will help create behaviour change from shoppers to choose reusable bags and encourage other retailers to follow their lead. This also may lead to greater pressure on state governments to implement plastic bag bans such as those already in place in SA, the ACT and Tasmania.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
Claire has been working at Planet Ark since 2011, after working in the communications industry and raising a young family. She is passionate about her children and helping the environment. Claire is super-organised and excellent multitasker, which helps in her joint roles as Office Manager and Campaign Coordinator.