Plastic bag backlash: Coles to hand out free reusable bags 'indefinitely'

Pablo Tucker
August 4, 2018

Australian supermarket chain Coles has abandoned plans for a plastic-bag ban because shopper kept forgetting to bring their reusable bags.

It drew a furious response, dubbed "bag rage", as customers angry about having to bring their own sacks or pay 15 Australian cents (11 US cents) for a reusable plastic bag abused checkout staff and vented on social media.

But on Wednesday Coles said the change in habit had proven to be "big and difficult" for customers and it meant to hand out its thick, reusable plastic bags for free indefinitely.

Coles' backdown infuriated environmental lobby group Greenpeace, which said the supermarket's decision was bad for the planet.

"Coles giving away plastic bags, which does nothing to change customer behaviour and undoes the single use plastic ban".

Harris Farms CEO Angus Harris urged Woolworths and Coles to maintain their ban noting he understood how hard phasing out bags had been for his company.

But Coles then made a decision to extend the giveaway of free reusable bags until August 1.

When Coles originally announced its ban on single-use plastic bags it said it would provide its reusable and thicker "Better Bags" for free until July 8 to help customers adjust.

With a PR disaster looming and calls for a boycott mounting, Coles on Thursday backflipped again, saying the 15 cent bags would only be free until August 29.

"It's confusing and frustrating for customers that they have been flip-flopping on this issue and we really want to see them make a solid commitment to actually doing what they said they would do and ban the bags for good", Deans added.

But Coles and rival Woolworths have faced major backlash from customers who weren't prepared for the change.

While customers had been growing more and more accustomed to bringing reusable bags, many were still finding themselves one or two short at the register.

Also whilst we're here, can we talk about how stupid and useless that new Coles "mini-collectables" campaign is.

Customers who bring their own bags are being rewarded with free Flybuys points.

Plastic bags will be banned from Coles by the end of August, after public backlash.

Woolworths surveyed 12,500 customers in May about the phasing out of single-use bags and found that 75 per cent supported the move, 15 per cent did not support it, and 10 per cent were unsure about it.

Woolworths has confirmed it won't be following Coles' lead.

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