Single-use plastic bags will phased out from Woolworths and Coles stores across Australia.
Woolworth Group announced on Friday morning that stores Australia-wide would phased out the use of plastic bags by July 2018.
Coles followed up Woolworth’s announcement by pledging just hours later that it would also phase out the use of plastic bags in stores by the middle of next year.
The decision means lightweight bags will no longer be offered to customers at Woolworths supermarkets, Big W and BWS.
Woolworths Group stores Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters, which have already stopped offering single-use bags.
Woolworths Group said it gives out more than 3.2bn lightweight bags
each year. Instead customers would be offered a range of reusable
plastic bags to buy, except at Big W where customers may be given free
“Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously,” said Woolworths Group’s chief executive, Brad Banducci.
“Our customers expect responsible retailing and they can be assured that this is just the start of further commitments by Woolworths in this space.
“Our customers can also expect further commitments in reducing plastic use in all parts of our supply chain, especially in fruit and vegetables.”
Simon McDowell, Coles chief customer officer, said the company had been working on the plan to phase out bags for some time as “part of our ongoing program to improve environmental outcomes throughout our business.”
The announcement affects stores only in states that have not passed legislation banning single-use bags: New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Woolworths Group stores in South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania have already stopped offering the bags in-line with state laws. Queensland has legislated to ban single-use plastic bags from 2018.
The move follows on from the ABC TV show The War on Waste, where comedian Craig Reucassel threw the issue back on to the national stage, pouncing on politicians with a giant ball of plastic bags, and putting pressure on supermarket representatives.
Reucassel told the Guardian he was very surprised to see Woolworths “go it alone”.
“It takes courage to do it on your own and it will be interesting to see what Coles does.
“It’s a very poor reflection on the politicians of the states in NSW and Victoria and WA that Woolworths have basically gone ahead and done it themselves.”
A Greenpeace campaigner, Samantha Wockner, said it was disappointing that leadership on the matter had to come from the supermarket sector, rather than from government.
“This announcement by Woolworths shows they are serious about their responsibilities as one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains,” Wockner said.
“The overwhelming majority of Australians support a ban on single-use plastic bags – which are only used for minutes on average, but then take up to a thousand years to decompose.
“There is no reason for the paralysis currently infecting some state and federal governments on this issue. It’s time for us to ban the bag at every level.”