Woolies, Coles jump gun on plastic bag ban
IF YOU haven't already started, now is the time to start storing away your plastic shopping bags.
From 1 July, free single use plastic bags will be banned virtually nationwide, with major retailers Coles and Woolworths also adding NSW to the list despite the Government there saying they can remain in place.
But if you're living in one of 16 suburbs across four states, the plastic prohibition will come much earlier - as soon as Wednesday and almost three months ahead of schedule.
From the ritzy Melbourne enclave of Toorak to the tropical town of Mossman in far north Queensland, select supermarkets are testing the waters prior to July to gauge how being denied plastic bags will go down with shoppers.
A Woolies spokesman said the pre-emptive move was designed to "monitor the feedback from customers" prior to the full plastic axe on 1 July.
South Australia was the first state to phase the bags out back in 2009. It slapped retailers with fines of up to $5000 for distributing banned bags and retailer suppliers could be fined up to $20,000. ACT and the Northern Territory followed suit in 2011, while Tasmania banned them in 2013.
Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia will ban them from July this year.
Last year, Woolworths announced that not only would it be abiding by the ban in those states, it would also withdraw the bags in NSW.
It's understood that with the other states on board with a ban, it was easier to simply withdraw the bags in all stores. Hours after Woolworths made its announcement, Coles matched the pledge.
A Woolworths spokesman said of the early bans in 12 stores: "Our teams have been hard at work reminding local customers about the upcoming change in recent weeks, and the feedback from the community has been really positive so far.
"We'll continue to closely monitor the feedback from customers as the change comes into effect to ensure any lessons we learn from the initial two stores is reflected in our national rollout in a few month's time."
From Wednesday, 4 April, free plastic bags will no longer be available from stores in Toorak, Wyndham Vale and Taylors Lakes in Victoria.
Sydney stores in Marayong, Greenway Village and Dural, and the NSW regional town of Mullumbimby, will also say an early goodbye to the bags.
In Queensland, plastic bags will be gone in Mossman and Noosa Civic and in Western Australia the stores will be in Singleton, South Fremantle and Cottesloe.
Coles also confirmed to our sister paper news.com.au that it was removing bags in some stores. Balgowlah in Sydney, Williamstown in Melbourne, Inglewood in Perth and Hope Island in Queensland will lose their plastic bags two months early on 30 April.
"We know many customers enjoy the convenience of single-use bags, so we're trialling the phase out in a number of stores to ensure we make the transition as easy as possible," said Coles Managing Director John Durkan.
Each year, Woolies' customers pick up 3.2 billion plastic bags with another few billion taken from Coles stores.
The bans generally only cover traditional lightweight free plastic bags and not thin bags for gathering up fruit and veg. Thicker reusable plastic bags, that will cost 15c each, will be the cheapest alternative although familiar so-called "green bags" will also be available.
"Wednesday marks a big day for us and these communities, as we take this early, but important step in partnership with our customers to help create a greener future for Australia," the Woolworths spokesman said.
"We know the removal of single-use plastic bags is a significant change for some of our customers, but we believe very strongly it is the right thing to do for the environment."
In October, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews goaded his NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian openly wondering why NSW hadn't joined in the ban and said, if it eventually did, the state would be "following Victoria's lead".
Green groups have also renewed pressure on NSW to act.
"NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, is now lagging behind every other state in Australia and even behind the major supermarket chains who have also taken action to ban the bag," said Greenpeace senior media campaigner, Simon Black.
"More than one billion bags in NSW will not be covered by the voluntary action by supermarkets. That's billions of bags that Berejiklian is letting end up in our waterways and landfill," he said.
The NSW Government's responded to the pressure saying its current anti-litter priority is the implementation of a 10-cent container deposit scheme, scheduled to roll out across the state in December.