Furious Australians have made their sentiment public on social media with regards to the decision made by supermarket behemoth, Coles, to prohibit single-use plastic bags from check-outs starting today moving forward.
The controversial regulation saw the conventional plastic shopping bags vanish from all of Coles’ outlets after the clock ticked past midnight.
Moving forward, Coles shoppers all across Australia would need to bring with them their own reusable bags to bring their groceries in, or pay 15c for a selection of reusable bags that can be bought at check-outs.
A Coles spokesman has described the development as “the right thing to do for our environment.” However, some Australians are not buying it, going as far as saying that the corporation is using the ban to make even more money. Others have threatened to no longer shop at the chain as a sign of protest.
The intense backlash comes after yesterday’s announcement from SDA National, which is a union for workers in retail, fast food and warehousing, that a female Woolworths staff member was smothered and sworn at by a male customer who opposed the company’s bag ban at Woolworths Greenfields in Mandurah, Western Australia. The incident happened late last month.
The union is urging angry shoppers to treat retail staff with respect no matter how they feel about the bag ban.
The scene at Coles was much more peaceful with several shoppers arming themselves with reusable bags as they went about their shopping chores.
While a lot of reactions on social media has been destructive, there has also been a lot of praise thrown the way of the ban, with some remarking that it should have been done a lot sooner, and others saying that people who are complaining about the eradication of plastic bags were simply “lazy”.
Others also stressed that plastic bag bans have successfully been introduced in other parts of the world without this much trouble.
Shoppers have said on Twitter that they back the ban, with one even saying: “Reducing our carbon footprint is extremely important” while another added the ban was “very long overdue”, and another claiming: “Soon enough it will be the new normal.”
Despite the social media repercussion, Coles’ chief operating officer Greg Davis was quoted as saying that a “large proportion” of shoppers remembered to bring their own bags today, and that many customers had offered “positive feedback” regarding the change.
“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.
“Our community bags have proven extremely popular and a large proportion of shoppers have come to our stores prepared with their own bags.
“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.”
Davis said staff would “continue to work hard to help customers through this transition”.
Coles would have extra staff on hand to monitor all check-outs until 6 p.m. today in a bid to aid customers deal with the wide scale change, while more check-outs would be open between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. in NSW and Victoria, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Queensland and Western Australia until July 8.
Both Coles and Woolworths have pledged their commitment to a June 30, 2018 deadline for the removal of single-use plastic bags last year, although Woolworths has delayed its ban after substantial customer backlash.
The backflip would see free reusable plastic bags being given to customers until July 8 after many customers did not want to pay for new reusable ones altogether.
Both grocery heavyweights have also vowed to cut down on the amount of plastic that is being utilised in packaging and wrapping, with Coles also saying that it wants to halve food waste and make all its own-brand packaging recyclable by 2020.
Meanwhile, two of Australia’s biggest retailers, Kmart and Target, have both declined to embrace the plastic bag ban despite the moves of other major chains.
The discount department store chains, which are both owned by Wesfarmers, which also owns Coles, will keep on using single-use bags in stores until an unknown date in 2019.