Woolworths has announced it will implement a ban on single-use plastic bags throughout its Australian stores within the next year.
A statement released by Woolworths on 14 July said the company wanted to contribute to efforts that reduce plastic bag usage and saw the decision as the right thing to do as one of Australia’s largest retailers.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: “As a group we are committed to listening to our customers and also doing the right thing for the environment, and we feel this is an issue we need to take a stand on.”
“We currently give out more than 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags a year and hence can play a significant role in reducing overall plastic bag usage. Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously,” he said.
A new 15c bag will be introduced by the company, which C&I understands will be cost neutral for the business.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said customers will have access to a range of alternative shopping bag options including thicker, reusable variations at different price points to suit consumer needs.
“Customers should be assured that we will provide full support during the roll out of this new initiative ensuring our customers continue to have a positive shopping experience at Woolworths,” he said.
Supermarket retailer Coles also made a similar announcement not long after Woolworths; however there is still uncertainty as to how to this will affect convenience retailers down the line.
Australasian Association of Convenience Stores CEO Jeff Rogut said the convenience industry puts its customers first.
“Many purchases are smaller, and bought on the go etc so our overall usage of bags is nowhere near that of supermarkets,” he said.
Mr Rogut said making consumers pay extra to bag their groceries could result in a spike in online and home deliveries if customers are unwilling to pay money for bags when they shop.
“Will be interesting to measure the results and perceived benefits,” he said.
In an article written for the Herald Sun, political commentator Andrew Bolt said it was convenient for Woolworths and Coles to announce their decisions so close together.
“Convenient for them, but an absolute pain in the neck for shoppers, who must now bring their own bags or buy them at the checkout for 15c,” he said.
“Seems the supermarkets are listening to the activists, not their customers.”
Do Something managing director Jon Dee said the announcement from both supermarkets was good news.
“We now need to see Coles taking the same stance as Woolworths in phasing out the use of plastic bags and charging for thicker plastic bags,” he told News.com.au.
“Banning thin plastic bags and charging for thicker plastic bags is the approach that Aldi has taken since they first started in Australia in 2001. There’s no reason why this approach can’t be taken by all retailers.”