Aussie supermarket backflips over plastic bags

Coles is under fire for reversing a decision to stop providing free plastic bags to shoppers, saying some need more time to adjust to the switch to buying reusable bags.

The backflip has prompted renewed calls for a NSW-wide ban on single-use plastic bags.

The supermarket giant has been handing out bags to customers in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia since July 1 when it brought in a ban on single-use plastic bags and told customers they'd have to pay for reusable bags.

 

Coles was meant to stop providing its reusable Better Bags for free on August 1 and start charging customers 15 cents per bag, but has now backflipped on that decision and appears set to provide them indefinitely.

Greenpeace criticised the decision as irresponsible and disappointing, saying that Coles is perpetuating the problem of plastic waste by providing free bags.

"They talked the talk but haven't walked the walk," spokeswoman Zoe Dean told AAP.

"It's interesting because the ban on single-use bags came as a result of pressure from customers and people calling for companies to take responsibility and stop using plastic bags.

NSW Labor and the Greens called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to introduce a state-wide ban on single use bags.

"The only way to sort out this mess is for Premier Berejiklian to finally take responsibility and put an end to the harm caused by single-use plastic bags by banning them in NSW," Labor environment spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said in a statement.

Angus Harris, whose supermarket chain Harris Farm Markets removed plastic bags in January, admitted it "was not easy" but urged Woolworths and Coles to "follow suit".

"Giving away reusable plastic bags is an environmental disaster, this just increases the amount of plastic that will now make its way into our waterways," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

He also heaped pressure on Ms Berejiklian to introduce a state-wide ban.

Some shoppers took to social media to attack Coles.

"What a bunch of cowards you are @Coles you should be doubling down and not making any plastic bags available in your stores," Ben B tweeted.

Retail expert Associate Professor Gary Mortimer added: "#Coles claim it 'is continually looking at ways to reduce plastic, which is why we removed single-use plastic shopping bags on July 1...' Really? Very disappointing."

A Coles spokeswoman said when the ban on single-use plastic bags came in, some customers said they needed more time to transition to reusable bags.

"Many customers bringing bags from home are still finding themselves short a bag or two so we are offering complimentary reusable Better Bags to help them complete their shopping, she said in a statement"

Coles and rival Woolworths both recently banned single-use plastic bags and began selling reusable bags instead.

Coles originally said it would provide its Better Bags, made from 80 per cent recycled material, for free until July 8 to help customers adjust.

But Coles then decided to extend the giveaway of free reusable bags until August 1.

Woolworths also offered customers free reusable bags until July 8.

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