Coles decision to delay cutting customers off from its free reusable plastic bags has led many industry figures to react negatively, as well as members of the public.
Earlier today, a Coles spokesperson confirmed to Inside Retail that they believed customers needed more time to adjust to the change.
“When Coles phased out single use plastic bags on 1 July QLD, NSW, Victoria and WA, some customers told us they needed more time to make the 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.”
Coles added that the complimentary bags are intended to be an interim measure to help customers make the transition to reusable bags.
Harris Farm Markets hit out at Coles’ decision while renewing its call to the NSW state Government to ban single-use plastic bags entirely in the process.
“We’re really disappointed by the decision from Coles Supermarkets this morning to backflip on their plastic bag ban and give out reusable plastic bags free of charge indefinitely,” said Angys Harris, Co-CEO of Harris Farm Markets.
“We now renew our call of Gladys Berejiklian and the State Government to enforce a ban of single use plastic bags immediately. We also call on the Board of Coles to reconsider this decision for the sake of our planet.
“Also, a public message to Brad Banducci and the team at Woolworths – please don’t follow suit.”
A Woolworths spokesperson responded to Inside Retail that they had found the majority of customers had embraced the move to a more sustainable way of shopping, and thanked them for their patience and support.
“Our focus is on continuing to help all our customers form new and sustainable habits. That’s why we continue to reward consumers who remember to bring their own bags,” said the Woolworths spokesperson.
Harris Farm removed all plastic bags from its stores in January, replaced with free reusable paper bags and cardboard boxes, with an estimated reduction of 15 million single use bags saved from landfill and waterways.
Harris went on to note that giving away plastic bags, reusable or not, just increases the amount of plastic that will now make its way into the environment.
Harris Farm Markets has historically been vocal about the issue, previously teaming up with Clean Up Australia, who this afternoon also displayed displeasure at Coles’ announcement.
“Clean Up shares shopper disappointment and dismay at this turnaround by Coles,” said Terrie-Ann Johnson, managing director of Clean Up Australia.
“Working with their teams in the lead up to the campaign to replace single use bags, we were inspired by and supported Coles’ nationwide desire to replace single use plastics.
“Today’s announcement that the spotted plastic bag will continue to be a free feature at the checkout is a breach of faith. We ask all shoppers to let Coles know that this is not what shoppers want by saying NO to plastic at the checkout.”
Greenpeace spokeswoman Zoe Dean criticised the decision as irresponsible and disappointing, and that Coles is perpetuating the problem of plastic waste by providing free bags.
“They talked the talk but haven’t walked the walk,” she told the AAP on Wednesday.
“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.
“While a minority of people are struggling to cope, we know it’s just a matter of time for people to adapt to the change.”