Leading the charge to ban plastic bags

Shoppers will soon have to start forking out extra for plastic bags the next time they do their weekly grocery trip.

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have announced they’ll soon be charging shoppers for single-use plastic bags, a decision welcomed by landcare groups in Victoria. 

Robert Skehan lobbying for a plastic bag free Torquay. Picture: Lachie Durling

While most of us can shrug off the 15 cents per bag, environmental groups hope it’ll make shoppers think twice before they head out.

To landcare groups such as the Plastic Bag Free movement, this is a big step in the right direction.  

Leading the charge against the single use plastics in Torquay, environmental group Plastic Bag Free Torquay has been campaigning to ban the bag for over 10 years. 


Robert Skehan explains the actions Plastic Bag Free Torquay has taken to reduce the distribution of single-use plastic bags.

“We decided to take a different approach and focus on the small wins, rather than go after the big stores, it was a more grassroots approach, and we’ve found it works,” he said.

“The biggest challenge is getting people to bring their Boomerang Bags back, they’re good quality bags, but people often forget they need to return them.”

Boomerang Bags is an initiative which has taken off around the world, with people donating materials and their time to manufacture reusable bags for in-store distribution. 

While Coles and Woolworths have started initiatives to recycle soft plastics using in-store bins, Mr Skehan argues that the supply of used bags is currently outweighing demand for the recycled product.

“A problem with the soft plastic recycling is that there just isn’t enough demand on the other end. And the governments at all levels can do more, rather than just leaving it up to individual organisations and businesses to do their own thing,” he said.

“Items such as benches, rather than making them out of wood the government could encourage schools and councils to use recycled plastic furniture.”

Plastic bag levies at retailers have worked for some. Hardware juggernaut Bunnings noted an 80 per cent dip in the use of bags at its registers.

However, this wasn’t the case with Target, which removed the charge for single use bags after six months due to a handful of customer complaints.

The aim for Coles and Woolworths is to phase the bags out over the next year, and the meantime the 15 cent levy will give the supermarkets a little more cash before their bags disappear.


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