'Bag rage' prompts backdown on plastic bag levy in Australia

A sign seen in a Coles supermarket advises its customers of its plastic bag free in Sydney

Instead, they began offering more environmentally-friendly reusable bags for 15 Aus cents (11 USA cents) each, with Coles supplying them without charge until August 1 to help people adjust to the new regime.

After suggesting that shoppers are not ready to make the transition, the supermarket giant declared that they will continue to supply free, reusable plastic bags to their customers.

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.

Coles has caved to public demand and have announced that they will continue to give out their reusable plastic bags for free.

The backflip prompted rival Woolworths to reaffirm its commitment to banning single-use plastic bags, and another player, Harris Farm Markets, to plead with the NSW state Government to crack down.

Coles shifted the demise of free reusable Better Bags to August 1.

Coles reignited the bag ban debacle this morning announcing it would offer reusable plastic bags for free indefinitely because customers were finding it too tricky to remember their reusable bags.

Coles has once again sounded the death knell for free plastic bags at its checkouts, with the supermarket saying it will start charging 15¢ for reusable bags later this month.

Shoppers at a Coles supermarket in Melbourne
Shoppers at a Coles supermarket in Melbourne

A Woolworths spokesperson responded to Inside Retail that they had found the majority of customers had embraced the move to a more sustainable way of shopping, and thanked them for their patience and support.

"We now renew our call to Gladys Berejiklian and the State Government to enforce a ban of single-use plastic bags immediately".

"Giving away reusable plastic bags is an environmental disaster, this just increases the amount of plastic that will now make its way into our waterways", he said in a statement on Wednesday.

A man carries a Coles supermarket plastic bag as he walks along rocks at Dee Why Beach, located in the northern beaches suburbs of Sydney, Australia, July 31, 2018. Both recently extended bans on single-use bags, replacing them with reusable bags costing 15 cents (£0.08; $0.11) each.

"Removing the price means that these reusable bags are far more likely to be used once and discarded".

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

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

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