Supermarket giant Coles is once again giving away free plastic bags to its customers after abandoning its environmentally friendly stance in the face of a backlash from angry customers.
On Wednesday – the day Coles had nominated to be the start of a ban on free bags – Coles said it would continue to provide them to its customers, apparently indefinitely.
It’s the latest backflip in a saga that has seen free bags banned, then temporarily returned and now apparently available free to all.
The supermarket is now providing thicker, more durable, re-usable plastic bags, which initially came with a charge of 15 cents.
Coles said its customers still needed more time to adjust to the switch to buying reusable bags.
“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,” a spokeswoman said.
“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 has been handing out Better Bags to customers in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia since July 1 – when it first banned single-use plastic bags and told customers they’d have to pay for reusable bags.
It initially said it would charge 15 cents for each Better Bag (which are made from 80 per cent recycled material) from August 1.
Rival Woolworths, which also banned single-use plastic bags after some prevarication, appears unlikely to follow Coles’ latest move.
In a statement, it told The New Daily it would continue with its phasing out of single-use plastic bags.
“We’ve found the majority of our customers across Australia have embraced the move to a more sustainable way of shopping.
“We would like to thank them for their patience and support since we phased out single-use plastic bags.”
— Lizzie King (@lizzieking82) August 1, 2018
— Ryan Thomas (@RyanThomas136) August 1, 2018
Coles’ decision has divided customers and drawn fire from environmentalists.
“They talked the talk but haven’t walked the walk,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Zoe Dean said on Wednesday.
She said Coles was perpetuating the problem of plastic waste by continuing to provide free 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”
Jon Dee from environmental group DoSomething told News Corp that Coles had responded to a “really small minority who have no intention of doing the right thing environmentally” and was ignoring its customers’ wishes.
“Thicker bags take longer to break down,” he said. “By doing this Coles is creating a far worse environmental problem.”