Bans on plastic bags came into effect in two Australian states on 1 July 2018, with major retailers also voluntarily opting to remove single-use plastic bags from stores.
Queensland and Western Australia have both enacted the bans, following South Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania in outlawing the lightweight plastic bags.
Supermarket chains Coles, IGA, Woolworths (and its liquor brand BWS) have also voluntarily removed single-use plastic bags from stores in the remaining states not to have banned them, Victoria and New South Wales. Generally, the retailers still sell more durable or heavy-duty plastic bags for customer use.
Yet the rollout has not been without its problems as there have been reports of angry customers abusing staff and even one shopper strangling a staff member because he couldn’t get a free single-use plastic bag.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) July 1, 2018
Ben Haris from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Associations told Yahoo7 that 50 per cent of its members had been abused by customers over the single-use plastic bag ban.
“We received a report that a guy at a self-serve checkout at Woolworths became unhappy about there being no single-use plastic bags,” he said.
“A female staff member handed him a free reusable bag. The man then walked up behind the woman and put his hands around her throat,
“We’re just urging customers to think about their behaviour during this transition period.”
Plastic bags: Shop assistant 'grabbed by throat' as Australia ban starts https://t.co/vUWZBFMluA
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) July 1, 2018
In light of the rage over the change, Woolworths has temporarily reversed its decision to stop providing free plastic bags and is offering its reusable plastic bags (which normally cost 15 cents) for free until 8 July.
Coles CEO Greg Davis told news.com.au that many customers remembered to bring their own shopping bags.
“We are sincerely grateful to all of our Coles customers who have been part of the transition this weekend. Our team members have worked hard to ensure all registers have been open to make it easy for customers to shop with us,” he said.
“Customers have welcomed our investment in opening all supermarket check-outs across Australia today and our Coles online and liquor customers have also provided positive feedback about the change.”
Australian States And Retail Chains Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags https://t.co/aTa8ZIxrHS
— NPR (@NPR) July 1, 2018
Two other major discount retailers in Australia, Kmart and Target, have refused to follow Coles and Woolworths in voluntarily removing plastic bags.
Victoria plans to introduce legislation banning the bags at some point. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously said a ban in the state is unnecessary given the two major supermarkets were removing single-use bags of their own volition.
According to statistics from Ocean Crusaders, Australia uses 3.6 billion plastic shopping bags a year and less than 1% are recycled.