Free plastic bags banned by Australian supermarket chain

The reusable bags were initially only supposed to be free for one week. Source 7 NewsMore

The reusable bags were initially only supposed to be free for one week. Source 7 NewsMore

Coles Managing Director John Durkan has intervened less than 24 hours after the supermarket giant said it would offer free plastic bags to all its customers to put a four-week deadline on the "indefinite" giveaway.

Before they took action, half of Australia's eight states and territories had already banned single-use plastic shopping bags by law. "I appreciate this transition phase is taking longer than anticipated but it is absolutely the right thing to do by our customers", Mr Durkan said.

The double backflip comes after widespread calls to boycott Coles over its decision, and quite a few very angry tweets.

But Environmental groups have reacted with horror. Both recently extended bans on single-use bags, replacing them with reusable bags costing 15 cents (£0.08; $0.11) each.

"10 million plastic bags end up in NSW in the environment every year... we need to start the change somewhere", Dee explained before being interrupted yet again by Steve.

Greenpeace on Wednesday criticized Coles' decision as irresponsible and disappointing, saying the retailer was perpetuating the problem of plastic waste by providing free bags.

Customers will continue to get rewarded with 30 free Flybuys points at the checkout if they keep in mind to come armed with their own bags.

Steve then found himself in a heated debate with advertising executive Dee Manigan who argued that Coles has made a misstep with this decision and should expect "huge backlash" considering the majority of customers are actually behind the bag ban.

"Some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags", a Coles spokesperson said.

"It's all a part of lifting their customer satisfaction and getting more customers in the door", said James Tao, a market analyst at stockbroker Commonwealth Securities in Sydney.

Also whilst we're here, can we talk about how stupid and useless that new Coles "mini-collectables" campaign is.

"So it's up to all of us to keep the pressure on and tell them we want to stick to their commitment to reduce plastic", she said.

"Removing the price means that these reusable bags are far more likely to be used once and discarded", Black said.

Many customers have expressed their disappointment at the backflip.

The backflip comes while Coles is under huge pressure to lure customers, as its sales growth lags Woolworths just as Wesfarmers prepares to spin it out and list it separately.

Customers who bring their own bags are being rewarded with free Flybuys points.

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