Plastic bags to be scrapped by supermarket giant Woolworths

Mar 22, 2022
Woolworths will replace their reusable plastic bags with paper bags. Source: Getty Images

Woolworths will be replacing their reusable plastic bags with paper in Western Australia (WA) this month, ahead of a statewide ban on plastics being carried out in July.

Shoppers who forget their own bags will now be offered brown paper bags for 20-cents, 5-cents more than customers already pay for the reusable plastic bags.

The paper bags will also become the standard for online orders.

Woolworths State General Manager for WA, Karl Weber said the supermarket chain wanted to show support for the governments’ decision.

“Over the next month, we’ll be gradually phasing out plastic shopping bags from our stores and online orders across WA, as we move to support the WA Government’s upcoming plastic bag ban,” he said.

“This change will see more than 30 million plastic bags removed from circulation in WA every year – which is a big win for the health of our oceans and waterways.

“While our paper bags will continue to be available, the most sustainable bag you can use is the reusable one you bring from home.

“The vast majority of our customers already bring their own reusable bags to shop, which is the very best outcome for the environment, and we encourage customers to keep up the great work.

“We know the change brought about by this new WA legislation may be an adjustment for some customers and we thank them in advance for their support as we all work together to grow greener.”

Sustainability expert at Monash Sustainable Development Institute Jenni Downe told news.com.au that “demonising” one material to replace it with another just pushes the issue around, creating further undesirable impacts for the environment.

“Other materials can be just as damaging, for example, when you produce paper the amount of water that needs to be used is huge and paper is relatively difficult to recycle,” Downe’s said.

“Paper recycling is somewhat more efficient than plastics recycling, and slightly better if littered in the ocean as it will break down quicker, so less likely to choke marine life, but how do you weigh up cutting down trees versus turtles choking?

“That’s why it’s complicated and researchers have to compare apples with oranges.”

Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer said the move to paper will have economic repercussions for supply chains having to produce more of the bags and further strain on household budgets, as not only are they more expensive to buy, but they aren’t as durable and will result in customers having to buy more.

“The other challenge with paper bags is they easily degrade once you put frozen groceries or cold products in, they get damp pretty quickly and get disposed of pretty quickly,” Dr Mortimer told news.com.au.

“Whereas as a plastic reusable bag tends to be more robust and more protected from wet, damp or cold grocery products.”

The ban on single-use plastic bags implemented by supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles in 2018, was met with controversy with reports of a worker being grabbed by the throat and accusations the switch to reusable bags was a ‘money-making scheme’.

Woolworths reported a drop in sales in August, 2018, one month after the initial switch to reusables came into effect.

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