Coles to phase out soft plastic bags by July

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Coles will announce on Wednesday its commitment to end the sale of soft-plastic shopping bags in-store and online by the end of June.

This move is part of the supermarket’s efforts to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging and meet its sustainability goals and will see the remaining supply of soft-plastic bags phased out in the coming weeks.

Based on Coles’ sales records over a 52-week period up to April, this will remove 230 million plastic bags from circulation in one year.

It comes after Woolworths last year pledged the permanent removal of plastic shopping bags in all stores by the end of 2023.

Coles are discontinuing plastic bags, a move mum Hayley Ward says will help her kids Poppy, 6, Stella, 4, Maisie, 8, Jobe, 9, think more about sustainability. Picture: Rebecca MichaelColes are discontinuing plastic bags, a move mum Hayley Ward says will help her kids Poppy, 6, Stella, 4, Maisie, 8, Jobe, 9, think more about sustainability. Picture: Rebecca Michael

Coles chief operations and sustainability officer Matt Swindells said the decision was a significant step towards reducing the amount of plastics used in-store and online.

“The most sustainable option is to bring your own reusable bag to the supermarket, but for those who forget, we will continue to sell 100 per cent recycled paper bags that can be recycled kerbside, as well as other reusable options,” he said.

“The … paper bags have been tested for use and we’re confident they can hold up to 6kg of goods.”

Coles was one of many Australian retailers, including Woolworths, Harris Farm, IGA, Kmart and Target to remove single-use carry bags in 2018, followed by Aldi in 2019.

Mr Swindells said while there was still no end solution for soft plastic following the collapse of Australia’s largest soft-plastics recycling scheme, REDcycle, last year, they would continue to create initiatives to reduce problematic and unnecessary plastics.

“We know reducing excessive packaging is important to our customers and that’s why we continue to remove unnecessary and problematic packaging from our stores, like removing all plastic collectibles and single use tableware,” he said.

Mother-of-four Hayley Ward said Coles’ decision to get rid of soft-plastic bags was a step in the right direction and was happy to pay the 25-cents for a paper bag if needed.

“Anything to reduce the use of plastic and protect our environment is something I want to support,” she said.

“I’m a busy mum of four kids and sometimes I’m put in a situation where I need to buy a bag, and this will encourage me to opt for a paper bag that I can put in my recycling bin once I’ve used it several times.

“In our household it’s the kids’ job to carrying the shopping bags inside from the car, and because they’re learning about waste at school, they think the 100 per cent recyclable paper bags are awesome.”

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Coles’ announcement comes as the supermarket trials new initiative Swap-a-box in selected states, allowing customers to use a reusable box when making Click & Collect orders.

The supermarket will continue to offer reusable fresh produce bags made from 90 per cent recycled materials, while plastic bags made with 50 per cent recycled plastic remain available in the fresh produce department, excluding in the ACT where they have been replaced with compostable bags made from plant-based corn starch.

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