AUSTRALIAN supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles have confirmed they will stop using lightweight plastic shopping bags across the country, with both companies set to phase them out over the next 12 months.
The ban will also extend to all Big W and liquor chain BWS stores, which are owned by the Woolworths Group. Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters stores have already scrapped the bags.
The major move will bring NSW, Victoria and WA in line with South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, which have already enforced statewide bans on plastic bags. A similar ban will come into effect in Queensland next July.
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Customers will instead be forced to either pay 15 cents for a heavier-duty reusable bag or bring their own.
Woolworths says the supermarket giant hands out more than 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags every year.
“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,” Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said.
“Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously.
“Our customers can also expect further commitments in reducing plastic use in all parts of our supply chain, especially in fruit and vegetables.
“Whilst we know this is a major decision, we will work very closely with all of our store teams to ensure the transition for our customers is as simple as possible.
“Our customers expect responsible retailing and they can be assured that this is just the start of further commitments by Woolworths in this space.
“Our team continues to work hard to minimise our impact on the environment through the minimisation of food waste, ethical and sustainable sourcing, and reduction in energy use.”
The announcement from Woolworths was followed by a near-identical announcement from Coles several hours later.
Both companies say they will start phasing out the single-use plastic bags shortly, with the bags tipped to be completely gone by this time next year.