Almost six months ago now Australia’s two biggest supermarkets decided to ban plastic bags. Woolworths went single-use plastic bag free on June 20th; their competitor, Coles, followed shortly after on June 30th. The switch came after years of campaigning by environmental groups and consumers and since then the results have been spectacular.
Within the first three months of the change, the ban prevented 1.5 billion plastic shopping bags from entering circulation. The country as a whole has experienced an 80% drop in plastic bag consumption, according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP). Some retailers have even reported reduction rates up to 90%.
Estimates say that both Coles and Woolworths were previously circulating roughly 3.2 billion bags a year. The fact that these two mega-companies took the first step clears the path for smaller companies to take similar measures. David Stout, Manager of Industry Policy, Research & Projects at the National Retail Association, commented that smaller companies now need not worry as much about losing customers.
“Obviously the best thing for smaller businesses is to either engineer out the bag completely or have the customer pay ... they should be able to consider that strategy without fear of backlash,” he said.
While New South Wales has yet to legislate a ban on plastic bags, the rest of Australia is working hard to eradicate single-use waste. Citizens around the country have become environmental activists, encouraging companies and their communities to invest in sustainable options.
Stout highlighted the need to ban other single-use items in addition to banning plastic bags. “Everyone delivering things in a package need to take responsibility for what they deliver it in,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot more pressure on all of us to be more aware of what we consume.”
The goal, of course, is to get every facet of community on board this environmental revolution. “For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there’s a multitude of benefits on a whole to doing this,” Stout stated.