Editorial | Supermarket chains show to act - but at least we're seeing change now.

What a week it’s been for the environment and all it took was years of lobbying and ‘plastic bag shaming’ to finally get the big supermarket chains to listen.

Well they have, both Woolworths and Coles announcing last week they would phase out single-use plastic bags by mid 2018.

The move will affect shoppers in NSW, Victoria and WA, bringing them into line with South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, which already have statewide bans on plastic bags, while a statewide ban in Queensland will also come into effect next year.

Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said the decision will have a marked impact on reducing overall plastic bag usage because “the supermarket handed out more than 3.2 billion plastic bags a year”

Still want to use your plastic – and you’ll pay 15 cents a pop.

IGA retailers followed suit yesterday, promising to be “single-use lightweight plastic bag free within 12 months”.

Aldi must get a pat on the back here – they’ve been charging for heavy duty reusable bags since opening in Australia in 2001. 

The move is being lauded by green groups as a step in the right direction for the environment. Yes it is, but it’s hard to imagine these supermarket giants doing anything if it did not impact their bottom line – positively. And it begs the next question which is; what do we use now to line our bins?

Market research conducted in 2012 to measure the benefits of the bag ban in South Australia - (Review of the Plastic Shopping Bags (Waste Avoidance) Act 2008 – showed that while there was an overall reduction in plastic bag usage, there was also marked increase in the number of people buying bin liners – from 15 per cent before the ban to 80 per cent after. This does two things – creates another revenue stream for the supermarkets and another problem for landfill.

So what are the options? Well, you don’t have to use bin liners. Tamworth Regional Council is moving us in the right direction here, and we will ‘hopefully’ soon be able to put our food scraps into the green bin, with plans for an organic recycling facility in the very early stages. Or you could compost instead!

Either way pretty soon there won’t be any option – you’ll either have to bring the bag, or cough up for a more sturdy and reusable alternative. About time too.


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