The European Union has voted to completely ban single-use plastics by 2021. Granted, the law still needs to be approved by its member states. So while the world waits for that to happen, Coles’ and Woolworths’ in Australia made a move which shows that small changes by retailers can also help close the plastic gap. We don’t have to wait for laws to pass to quit our plastic addiction. All we have to do is take it upon ourselves to make it happen!
Australian National Retail Association spokesperson, David Stout, told The Guardian:
“Everyone delivering things in a package need to take responsibility for what they deliver it in. I think there’s going to be a lot more pressure on all of us to be more aware of what we consume.”
Coles and Woolworths are Australia’s two largest supermarkets. They recently led a ban on plastic bags at all their stores across the country. This ban has, so far, prevented some 1.5 billion plastic bags from entering the environment. The ban had nothing to do with any new law, regulation, or tax (though several Australian states have banned single-use plastic bags). This move was led by the private sector.
The decision wasn’t exactly well received either. Woolworths saw a slowing down of sales the first weeks as customers adjusted. Coles started off the ban by giving away reusable plastic bags for free to help their customers adjust, but then started charging for them after a certain point. That angered the shoppers and caused the supermarket chain to soon reverse course and resume its free-giveaway program. Then, that angered the environmentalists and they ping-ponged back again to charging for reusable plastic bags. Needless to say, yes it was a rocky start. People aren’t so ready to break their plastic addiction it seems, but hopefully with a little help, they’ll find their way.
It definitely helps with motivation when you see reports showing that there was an 80 percent reduction in plastic bag consumption and it took place within only three months of the ban!
NRA Manager of Industry Policy, David Stout, said:
“Retailers deserve an enormous amount of cudos for leading the way on one of the most significant changes to consumer behavior in generations and we also applaud shoppers for embracing this environmental initiative. Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90 per cent.”
“We’re still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used, especially in the food category, and whilst I get some comfort that the majors have done this voluntarily I think there still needs to be a ban in place. 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.”
The good news is, regardless of a few grumpy plastaholics, it seems most Aussies haven’t found it too difficult to adjust to the change. Hopefully more retailers will join in on this movement and won’t be afraid to stand strong and make a difference…even if it means having to deal with a couple unhappy people.
Everyone will be grateful for it in the long run. It’ll be fantastic for our landfills, oceans, and the greater environment. All these places have become the dumping grounds for our plastic waste, sadly killing God knows how many innocent animals as a result, as well as polluting our valuable resourses. All you have to do to be a part of the change is: bring a reusable bag with you when you go shopping…at least. It’s a very good start!