New Coles plastic bag move 'a weak act'

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.

"We've been delighted to see customers grow more accustomed to bringing their reusable bags from home so they are relying less on complimentary bags at the checkout".

On Thursday morning, the supermarket's managing director, John Durkan, wrote to Coles staff telling them the complimentary bag offer would continue in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia until August 29.

The supermarket giant on Wednesday made a decision to provide its thick, reusable plastic bags for free indefinitely, instead of charging 15 cents each as part of its program to get shoppers to switch from using single-use plastic bags.

A Change.org petition was also set up following Wednesday's decision, calling on people to boycott the supermarket until the ban was reinstated. "We also call on the board of Coles to reconsider this decision for the sake of our planet". In a statement sent to news.com.au, a spokeswoman for Woolworths said the majority of the chain's customers had "embraced the move to a more sustainable way of shopping", and thanked shoppers for their patience and support.

Customers who bring their own bags are being rewarded with free Flybuys points. "So what if people complain.How hard is it to bring bags?" said another.

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 re-usable plastic bags is an environmental disaster, this just increases the amount of plastic that will now make its way into landfill and our waterways".

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

"Today's announcement that the spotted plastic bag will continue to be a free feature at the checkout is a breach of faith".

Environmental groups, including a vocal Greenpeace, and like-minded shoppers had heaped criticism on Coles for deciding to go back on its original plan to only temporarily provide reusable bags for free.

"They talked the talk but haven't walked the walk", she told the AAP on Wednesday.

The U.N. wants to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and says more than 60 countries have so far taken steps to ban or reduce plastic consumption.

The only good part of this was the 15c charge, which would change people's behaviour over time.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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