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

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

Coles is under fire for reversing a decision to stop providing free plastic bags to shoppers, saying some need more time to adjust to the switch to buying reusable bags.

The supermarket giant yesterday made a decision to provide its thick reusable bags for free indefinitely instead of charging them 15 cents each as part of its program to ban single-use plastic bags.

"It's all a part of lifting their customer satisfaction and getting more customers in the door", said James Tao, a market analyst at stockbroker Commonwealth Securities in Sydney.

While customers had been growing more and more accustomed to bringing reusable bags, many were still finding themselves one or two short at the register.

What's surprised many observers is the resistance Coles and Woolworths have experienced given that rival upstart Aldi has always charged its customers for heavy-duty reusable plastic bags.

On Thursday morning, the supermarket's managing director, John Durkan, wrote to Coles staff telling them the complimentary bag offer would continue in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia until August 29.

The double-backflip follows a massive backlash from environmental groups, other retailers and social media users, after the retailer announced yesterday it would offer reusable plastic bags for free indefinitely.

The U.N. wants to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and says more than 60 countries have so far taken steps to ban or reduce plastic consumption.

"Our focus is on continuing to help all our customers form new and sustainable habits", the statement said, adding that Woolworths would continue to reward customers who brought their own bags.

Coles has set a deadline for its extended free plastic bags handout, after bowing to customer pressure in backing down on reusable bags.

That decision has annoyed environmental groups, who warned the reusable bags are worse for the environment if they are discarded into waterways and habitats.

"What about the people who actually go and do the shopping and who have said to Coles, "No, we want our plastic bags".

"Coles' colossal plastic bag fail" and "Coles caves" ran headlines on Australia's main news sites.

"We've seen that with container deposit [schemes] so we should just keep moving forward with certainty and give both the public and industry certainty", she said.

In Australia, they said, "get stuffed, there is no way I am bringing my bag in and I'm not going to pay 15 cents".

Woolworths also offered customers free reusable bags until July 8.

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