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Coles cops a backlash over plastic bags

Coles supermarkets have coped a backlash over their decision to once again provide free plastic bags to their customers.

This decision was seen as a back flip for Coles after they, along with several other leading supermarkets, took a stand recently to help the environment by removing single-use plastic bags from their check-outs.
The 15-cent reusable Coles Better Bags were introduced as an alternative to the grey single-use plastic bags, which were free.

In response to the announcement that Coles would continue to provide plastic bags free of charge in stores across the State, NSW Greens Environment spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi said that she shared the community’s frustrations that Coles had caved in (after its decision to provide customers with their new 15-cent plastic bags, for free).

“This is what happens when you outsource environmental decision making to big business,” the statement said.

“A Boomerang Alliance poll showed 63 per cent of NSW residents support a plastic bag ban,” she said.
The Independent spoke with a few Coles Yamba customers last week, to hear their thoughts on the transition from the single–use plastic bag.

Jennifer and Ken Martin of Iluka said that they do a big shop once a fortnight at Coles Yamba and use their own bags. Jennifer said that she would like to see other items in store eg. meat trays and plastic wrapped goods, being made of recyclable materials.

Rosie Vesper of Yamba said that she was disappointed with the new Coles Better Bags as she has had the handles break on them. “Why didn’t they keep the old ones (plastic bags) – these aren’t stronger,” she said.

Gayle and Cherie Verrall of Iluka do a big shop at Coles Yamba, every two weeks. The women transferred a lot of their groceries to the car in a shopping trolley, unbagged.
“I think the whole thing about paying for bags is a big joke. If it (the money from the bags) was going to something (a charity or cause) it would be better, but it’s not – it’s just so the shop gets more money,” said Cherie.

“I feel for the elderly and people who can’t afford much, because when you think about it, if they spend two dollars on bags; that’s two dollars for a loaf of bread and you’re still paying for something that is plastic.

“The handles break on these new bags,” she said.

Gayle said that she remembered going into the supermarket and taking all her groceries home in a brown paper bag and eating fish and chips out of newspaper.
Ambah Sanfead of Maclean said that the whole transition has been disorganised.

“They (Coles) could have implemented this in a different way. They needed a slower introduction to the changeover.

“They have completely back flipped now (by giving the new plastic bags away for free) and it defeats the purpose of what they set out to do,” she said.

In a message which was sent out to 115,000 Coles team members from Coles Managing Director John Durkan on 2 August, it reinforced the companies vision for the removal of single-use plastic bags:

“At Coles we are absolutely committed to reducing our impact on the environment and making a positive contribution to the communities in which our customers and team members live and work.

One part of this commitment is removing single-use plastic bags from our stores. As you would have experienced first-hand in stores, this has been a big and difficult change for many of our customers.

Over the past month, we’ve been delighted to see our customers grow more and more accustomed to bringing their reusable bags from home.

But we know that many customers are still finding themselves a bag or two short at the register and we want to do the right thing by them during this transition period. Putting our customers first is in our DNA and we must always be empathetic and responsive to their needs.

That’s why we are extending our complimentary bag offer until Wednesday 29 August for our customers in QLD, NSW, VIC and WA. I appreciate this transition phase is taking longer than anticipated but it is absolutely the right thing to do by our customers.