While some specialty retailers have long forgone plastic shopping bags in favour of other materials, supermarket giant Woolworths has upped the ante for the retail industry by banning single-use bags nationally.
From Wednesday, 20 June 2018, none of Woolworths’ almost 1,000 stores across Australia will have the trademark grey single-use plastic bags at the checkout, in a bid to reduce the huge amount of plastic winding up in landfill or polluting the nation’s landscapes and waterways.
The move will take 3.2 billion of the single-use bags out of circulation each year.
In their place, customers will be able to purchase different re-usable bags made from predominantly recycled materials.
“From the beginning, we felt strongly that this was the right thing to do and we’re really pleased to see customers are behind the change as well,” said Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci, noting that 74.4 per cent of surveyed customers supported the move.
“This is a landmark day for us not just as a business, but for our customers and communities, to help support a greener future for Australia. We are proud to say that from now on, single-use plastic bags are gone from our stores, for good.
“What we’re trying to do with this change is encourage more customers to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, so we can prevent plastic bags from reaching our waterways and reduce the overall production of plastics.”
Woolworths also previously committed to reducing plastic usage elsewhere in its stores, including “unnecessary packaging” of fresh produce and other products, building on 140 tonnes of plastic saved in its produce department last year.
“We know it may take some time for shoppers to form new habits, which is why we’ve been working hard to get the message out to customers to remember to bring their own bags over the past few months,” Mr Banducci said.
“Putting ‘reusable bags’ at the top of your shopping list, keeping a couple in the car or leaving a post-it note on the fridge are some simple tricks that could work as a reminder.”
Coles supermarkets will soon follow suit, phasing out single-use plastic bags from July 1 and taking similar strides to reduce other plastic packaging.
Wesfarmers-owned Coles announced earlier this month plans to halve food waste across its store network by 2020 and slash the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 90 per cent by 2022.
Fellow well-known Wesfarmers brand Bunnings has long operated without plastic bags being made available to customers, instead offering used cardboard boxes as a substitute, while German supermarket chain Aldi also only offers paid-for reusable bags.
It is expected that, with both major supermarket chains removing single-use shopping bags, other retailers will soon follow suit by switching to alternatives such as reusable plastic, hessian or cardboard bags.
It comes as businesses across the country are also being urged to recycle used printer toners, which are now being trialled for use in a replacement road surface.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.