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Coles sets August 29 deadline for handout of free reusable plastic bags

ABC News logo ABC News 2/08/2018

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Coles has set a deadline for its extended free plastic bags handout, after bowing to customer pressure in backing down on reusable bags.

On Wednesday, Coles said it would continue handing out thicker reusable plastic bags for free — which had previously been sold for 15 cents each — as customers make the transition from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags.

That handout will now end on August 29.

Most state governments in Australia have banned thin single-use bags or have plans to ban them, and the supermarket giant had pledged to phase them out from July 1.

In a statement, Coles managing director John Durkan said the transition had been difficult for customers.

"… we know that many customers are still finding themselves a bag or two short at the register and we want to do the right thing by them during this transition period. Putting our customers first is in our DNA and we must always be empathetic and responsive to their needs," he said.

"That's why we are extending our complimentary bag offer until Wednesday 29 August for our customers in QLD, NSW, VIC and WA. I appreciate this transition phase is taking longer than anticipated but it is absolutely the right thing to do by our customers."

The reusable bags will now be handed out to customers free of charge until August 29. © Supplied: Coles The reusable bags will now be handed out to customers free of charge until August 29. Coles' backdown infuriated environmental lobby group Greenpeace, which said the supermarket's decision was bad for the planet.

"Coles have caved in far too quickly to a small but vocal minority and there is absolutely no doubt Coles will be punished for this decision by customers who don't want to see plastic bags littering their beaches and killing marine life," Australia Pacific campaigner Zoe Deans said.

Single-use plastic bags take years to break down, and many end up in the environment polluting oceans, rivers and beaches.

However, if reusable plastic bags reach the oceans and other habitats, they could cause as much if not more damage than single-use bags currently do.

The peak Australian body for waste also warned that Coles' decision would create major confusion for consumers.

"It's just messy," Waste Management Association of Australia chief executive Gayle Sloan said.

"The key for us, where we produce 64 million tonnes of waste annually, is to work out ways to avoid the creation of waste and this kind of flip-flopping gets really confusing for the public and it gets really confusing for industry."

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