A sweeping global change is transforming grocery commerce.
Plastic bags are becoming a thing of the past. In a revolutionary trend worldwide, several cities, states, and countries are now requiring customers bring their own bag, or use a paper bag — anything but the insidious disposable plastic bag. This goes beyond the plastic bag tax created by many places, and altogether eliminates the plastic bag as an option. Furthermore, the trend appears to be an economic solution as well as an environmental one.
Australia provides an example of the sweeping change. The vast island country has been effectively eradicating plastic bags since 2009 — when South Australia became the first state to ban plastic bags in supermarkets. Since then, the Northern Territory, Tasmania, and ACT (Australian Capital Territory) have followed suit.
Now, two of the biggest Australian supermarkets — Coles and Woolworths — announced last week their plan to retire all plastic bags from circulation within the next year. Woolworths was first to make the announcement. The supermarket chain’s CEO, Brad Banducci, said the decision was based on helping the earth: “We’ve been looking at the feedback we get from our customers, as well as the impact on the environment, and we think it’s an incredibly important thing to do”.
Hours after Woolworth’s big decision, Coles also announced they would also eliminate plastic bags from their stores, in an effort “to improve environmental outcomes,” as Coles chief customer officer Simon McDowell said.
A report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Australia, “Plastic Shopping Bags Options Paper” refers to the diverse repercussions these bags bring to the earth. “Plastic shopping bags in the environment represent a negative externality because of the full costs of plastic shopping bags, including resources, environmental, recycling contamination, litter, and landfill costs, are not carried by the person that disposes or litters the bags.”
Global Citizen estimated that Coles and Woolworths combined spent an estimated $171,100,000 every year on plastic bags. This includes purchasing, shipping and distribution costs. They explain, “This means that supermarkets could make $71 million in profit by eliminating single-use plastic bags and selling reusable ones in their place.”
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