Coles Will Continue Handing Out Free Plastic Bags Indefinitely

Coles Will Continue Handing Out Free Plastic Bags Indefinitely
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Plastic devotees, rejoice! Everyone else, be bewildered at the people for whom the idea of bringing a reusable bag is just too hard a concept to grasp. Coles has decided to continue giving out its 15c plastic ‘Better Bags’ for free indefinitely, as people are apparently still struggling with the idea of a plastic-free life.

After pledging to phase out plastic bags from July 1, Australia’s big supermarket chains seem to be having trouble sticking to that promise. After a rocky few weeks, Coles has now decided to extend its free plastic bag offer indefinitely as an “interim measure” to help the transition.

“We will continue to listen to our customers and our team members on an ongoing basis to assess when customers have become accustomed to bringing their own bags, and will provide them with as much notice as possible,” a Coles spokesperson told the ABC. “Many customers bringing bags from home are still finding themselves short a bag or two so we are offering complimentary reusable Better Bags to help them complete their shopping.”

Woolworths Just Backflipped On Banning Free Plastic Bags (For A Bit)

Turns out Australians aren't quite ready to live a life without plastic bags just yet. In the wake of Woolworths removing single-use plastic bags entirely from its stores last week, the company has backflipped on that decision.

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The Better Bags are ‘reusable’ bags made from thicker plastic than the phased-out one-use plastic bags, though critics have pointed out that the amount of plastic in these bags is still a problem for the environment, especially if they are being given out for free in any volume.

The extension of the free bags seems an odd move to aid a transition, seeing as customers will have no reason to bring their own bags for as long as free plastic bags are still easily available at the counter. How hard is it to pay 15c for an extra bag or two anyway?


  • Great condescending tone when it comes to people not remembering their reusable bags. I’m sure we all appreciate it.

    Honestly, your argument against Coles doing this is pointless. Whether they give people the bags for free or we pay 15c it has no bearing on whether the environment is protected or not since the damned bags will be made, obtained and ultimately disposed of in either case.

    Frankly, I think their approach is a lot better for their customers since (a) it gives them a stockpile of reusable bags for next shop and (b) saves their customers money and frustration. Both of which lead to happier customers who are more likely to return there to shop next time. It also leads to happier staff since they’re not as likely to be abused by a customer who doesn’t have their reusable bags and is grumpy about it.

    It makes sense to give the bags away for a month or two until people have started to remember them. I wouldn’t be surprised if come September or October they’ll phase out the freebie bags since most people have got used to the reusable idea by then.

    • If they are giving them out for free then people are not being encouraged to reuse them. That’s the problem. If people are thinking “oh they’ll just have free bags there” then they won’t bring the ones they already have, this defeating the purpose of reusing them.

      • Not really, or at least not entirely. For starters the plastic bags are pretty robust so it seems like a waste to just throw them away. That alone serves as encouragement for people to reuse them. The old free plastic bags were rubbish the moment you picked them up. If you got them safely home with them tearing you were lucky.

        Secondly, there’s still plenty of coverage on the issue and it wouldn’t be hard for the supermarket to keep advertising that free plastic bags are “going away” just to reinforce the idea. But his way they don’t inconvenience customers, they protect their staff from abuse and they keep everybody happy.

        It also wouldn’t be hard for the supermarkets to monitor the rate at which they need to restock their reusable bags. Logically if people are throwing them all away the number used per week will never decrease. In contrast if people are reusing them the number will drop for awhile then stabilise around the “wear out point” (ie: the bags wear out sooner or later so they will need replacing eventually). Once the restocking numbers have dropped and stabilised they’d know that they could start selling them again. Although, they shouldn’t need to.

        To be honest, what Coles is doing now they *should* have been doing a month before the plastic bag ban. People would have got their free reusable bags and had more incentive to remember before the cut off.

        Side note (not aimed at you) love how people vote stuff down without actually thinking about the issue or what’s actually being said. It’s just a kneejerk “don’t like your opinion” vote.

  • these bags will end up being worse for the environment than the older bags

    at the end of the day 10 of these bags costs $1.50,
    if i buy 1 shopping item on sale, im probably saving that in a monthly shop anyway where i need 10 bags. and i can just use them like the good old single use bags, that i used to use for rubbish,
    or i now have to buy plastic bags for, which are then wrapped in plastic to be sold.. at probably more than 15c a bag.

    they should incentives for spend $x and get a free more reusable bag if they want to get rid of all plastic bags

  • How hard is it to remember to bring bags? If a third world country like South Africa can phase out plastic bags and have them disappear from the landscape, why is it so hard in Australia? Plastic bags used to be called the “national flower” of South Africa, and now they are gone from roadside litter. Poor uneducated people in Africa saw the benefit and embraced it 15 years ago – how come it is hard for much richer, much more educated people here? It is a disgrace, Coles and Woolies should kick out the bullying customers and let them go to Aldi’s, where, they have to bring their own bags…

    • I’ve ‘forgotten’ 3 times in the first month. Not because I don’t care, but forget to pick them up as I walk out the door.

      I don’t drive, which means I need to remember to pick the bags up when I go to work, AND pick them up as I leave work after 8 hours.

      You’d be surprised how easy it is to pick something up tucked into the corner of my desk as I’m tiredly heading home for the day. Which means I’m building up a supply I’ll never exhaust, and sooner or later be throwing them out.

      Or I grab one, only to find I need a second one. Great, theres yet another bag. What annoys me is the arrogance of some people that expect perfection. We’re human, we’re not perfect.

      Personally, tie them to members rewards, or have a Bring One Get One Free sort of setup. How would people feel if they could throw 100 Woolies members points to pay for them?

      Rather than deal with arrogant assumptions, and trying to guilt others with sob stories of starving children in Africa, how about you suggest better methods of encouraging people. Your attitude isn’t helpful.

      • This is exactly the problem I’ve been having. I dropped my car to the mechanic a couple days ago for a 30minute job and thought I’d grab some groceries while I was waiting. Of course after I walked 10 minutes to the shop I realised that all my bags were still in the car and I either faced a 10 minute walk back to the car to get them or having to get new bags.

        Planned “big” shops aren’t a problem as I know before I leave the house “I’m going to buy groceries bring the bags” but every impulse shop is a problem. Get off the train on the way home and buy a loaf of bread, bottle of milk and some eggs… shit I need another bag.

        As a result of this I have 9 of the heavy cloth reusable bags and I think four of the heavy plastic ones. So yeah I’m stoked about the bag ban.

        • Yeah, I suck it up, pay the 15c and get on with life. Its usually as I get to Woolies I realise I’ve forgotten – Woolies is halfway between work and home, so its 10m either way. I don’t mind paying for my forgetfulness, its just 15 or 30c. I just hate the attitude people have about it all.

          But it means I have a half dozen here at work, another dozen at home, and probably another half dozen in the next month. Nobody needs that many, so either I have a hoarding issue at home, or start throwing them out.

          Which gets us back to the pre-1 July situation, only with bags needing 5x the resources to make.

      • @grunt, I understand your situation and I don’t drive either. I also agree constructive suggestions are the way to go.

        With that said, here’s how I have been managing. You can purchase thin, nylon/synthetic bags from $2 shops that fold up to almost nothing (much less bulky than the Coles reusable bags and cotton ones). Most come in a little pouch with a clip on the top and you can easily slip or clip several to your handbag/laptop bag/work bag/back pocket without them taking up hardly any room and they weigh next to nothing. Although they are thin, they’re strong and I have been using one as a spare bag for years and although it’s got tatty and has a few small holes, it’s still usable.

        • Thanks Eth. Ultimately, it comes down to my ability to remember to pick a bag up or not. That wouldn’t change, I’d just need to remember to pick up a different thing.

          Right now, I have one in my back pocket, because I remembered I need stuff on the way home. But I only remembered 10 minutes ago, and I’m heading out the door to go home now.

          I have a couple stashed under a shelf here at work so its not like I don’t have them, its just remembering I need them. Down to one left so now I’ll need to remember to bring some of the growing pile at home back into work.

          And that’s the core of it. If I remember, no problem. If I don’t, its ANOTHER bag to add to a growing pile. Eventually I’ll have too many, and start just tossing them. Even if I do remember, I’ve been short so needed to buy one anyway and the same result.

          Given they’re thicker and more resource intensive to make, throwing one will be like throwing 6 of the single use bags at once. So the problem hasn’t gone away, its just been hidden and made into a revenue stream.

  • “Many customers bringing bags from home are still finding themselves short a bag or two…”

    How hard is it to pay 15c for an extra bag or two anyway?

    Summed up in a nutshell. Are people really that tightarsed? 15c for a reusable bag? Come on, guys – stop being the worst of sooks. It’s embarrassing.

    • I have no problems paying for an extra one or two. I have a problem when I end up with so many I’m throwing them away, and making the problems that led to this worse.

      I’d like a Bring One Get One Free setup, or to be able to use reward points to cover them, or better yet, a supply of empty boxes to use instead, like Aldi does. They used to do that with a big cage tucked away, theres no reason they cant again.

      I need to stop reacting to this and just go back to not giving a shit. Not going to be easy though. With how people have treated me in the past month with these changes, sooner or later I’m going to snap.

      • The small IGA near us does the “use an empty box” thing. It’s actually a really good idea (apart from the fact there are never enough boxes) since they’re usually more robust and less likely to fall apart and they’ve already been made so there’s no excess rubbish being created. AND they’re recyclable. Win-win-win.

        • My local Woolies has a relatively large area they could put a cage in and just toss their empty boxes into. Its not a new concept, they were doing it up until the early 90’s, and the smaller IGA type options (Flemmings, Franklins, IGA, etc) were doing it a lot longer.

          They wont do it now though, because they feel it looks ugly. My sister and her husband are in lower management in Woolies, and its been suggested plenty of times. They simply don’t want to invest in it, and seemingly prefer to cut the boxes up than make them available for re-use.

          I wonder if all the talk over the last few days has changed their minds in any way.

          • I remember them having the boxes available for customers when I was a kid, but can’t remember when they stopped letting us use them. I feel like it was early 80s here.

            Yeah it’d be interesting to know whether it’s even up for discussion with their management team or whether it’s just a dead issue with them. And for what reasons.

    • You really miss the point here. What’s the difference between the store being “nice” and giving you that reusable bag for free or you forking out 15c for it? It’s still one more bag destroying the environment. And isn’t *that* what the problem supposedly is? That every plastic bag ruins the environment?

  • Wow! It’s becoming both increasingly painful and embarrassing to see Australia struggle with this problem for so long when America has had it right for decades with big brown PAPER bags. We are absolute idiots sometimes…

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