The days of taking several plastic bags home from the supermarket are coming to an end, with one of Australia’s biggest chains banning the bags from several stores following the Easter rush.
Woolworths has revealed that single-use plastic bags will no longer be available from several of its stores across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia as part of its national phasing out set to be complete by June 30.
Woolworths was previously giving out as many as 3.2 billion plastic bags per year.
Supermarket rival Coles has also committed to phasing out plastic bags over the coming months.
A Woolies spokesman said the pre-emptive move was designed to “monitor the feedback from customers” prior to the full plastic axe later this year.
While the stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and WA are amongst the first in these states to ban single-use plastic bags, shoppers in South Australia have not been able to use them since 2009, with the ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania all following suit in banning the bags between 2010 and 2012.
“We know the removal of single-use plastic bags is a significant change for some of our customers, but we believe very strongly it is the right thing to do for the environment,” said Andrew Hall, the Woolworths state manager for Victoria.
Woolworths customers who don’t bring their own bags can purchase thicker reusable bags for 15 cents or canvas bags for 99 cents.
Meanwhile Coles has introduced what it calls its ‘Better Bag’ made from 80% recycled material. Said to be bigger, thicker and more durable than existing single-use plastic bags, the Coles Better Bag costs 15 cents and is designed to use over and over again.
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What else are the supermarkets doing?
In addition to banning single-use plastic bags, Coles and Woolworths have recently started to talk up their other environmentally-friendly initiatives to help reduce waste in their stores.
Coles says its own brand natural spring water bottles are now made from recycled plastic, while Coles brand beef, pork and lamb mince are now packaged in recyclable plastic material. The supermarket says the ‘Plantic’ trays are being used for more than 50 million meat packs sold each year.
Meanwhile Woolworths says it has 28 initiatives to reduce or remove plastic packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables. The goal is to remove 150 tonnes of plastic packaging annually, the supermarket says.
Both Coles and Woolworths have also committed to the REDcycle recycling program – an initiative that invites consumers to gather together all of their empty bread, cereal and frozen food bags, plastic and reusable shopping bags and any other flexible plastic packaging, and take them to their nearest drop off point.
The collected soft plastic material is delivered to the manufacturing partner, Replas, where it is said to be transformed into items such as school furniture, gym equipment and bollards, as well as carpark wheel stops, storefront bench seats and the actual recycling units themselves.