The ban on single use plastic bags was implemented on July 1 across the majority of Australia, with supermarket giant Coles urging customers to remember their own bags from that date.
However, in a series of backflips since the ban came into effect, Coles have continued to offer reusable plastic bags – which usually set shoppers back $0.15 – for free.
It was expected that this offer would continue until Wednesday, August 1, with signs even being put up in some stores to notify customers of the change, however it has now been claimed that the bags will continue to be handed out free of charge indefinitely.
A spokesperson for Coles told The Herald Sun: “Some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags.
“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. 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.”
Supermarket giant @Coles has revealed it will continue handing out re-usable plastic bags for free, indefinitely. It comes after they received widespread backlash for charging customers 15 cents for the bags. @nathantemp7 #7News pic.twitter.com/M60PVuT4H8
— 7 News Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) July 31, 2018
Environmentalists have slammed Coles’ decision, with Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel labelling Coles’ latest move a “weak act”, reports The Herald Sun.
“These so-called reusable plastic bags are almost as thin as the banned lightweight ones,’’ he said. “They have a very limited life and the removal of the price signal also means they are more likely to be littered — something we warned about.”
Customers have also criticised the groceries giant, labelling the ongoing saga as “ridiculous”. Others said they have lived overseas, in countries such as the UK and Germany, where plastic bag bans have not caused an issue.
While another user wrote on Twitter: “Weak. Show a little courage of your convictions Woolies and Coles and quit bowing down to the loud minority.”
Customers will continue to received 30 free Flybuys points at the checkout as a reward for remembering to bring their own bags.
Woolworths, who also faced a backlash from customers immediately following the July 1 rule-change, did hand out free reusable bags for a short time but now charge shoppers 15 cents per bag at the checkout.