Coles has ended its month-long free bag giveaway. Picture: John Grainger
Coles has ended its month-long free bag giveaway. Picture: John Grainger

No more free plastic bags at Coles

COLES has resumed charging customers for its 15-cent reusable bags from today.

In response to bans on single-use plastic bags in some states and territories, both major supermarkets opted to remove them from their entire store networks - Woolworths on June 22 and Coles on July 1.

The move sparked customer complaints, forcing first Woolworths and then Coles to waive the fee on their 15-cent bags for a period to help customers "adjust" to the change.

Coles then extended its bag giveaway past Woolworths before backflipping entirely on the bag ban by announcing it would give the heavier bags away for free "indefinitely".

That sparked outrage from environmental groups, forcing the supermarket to backflip on its backflip, pulling back the free giveaway period until August 29.

"Coles has always maintained that complimentary bags were an interim measure to help customers make the transition to reusable bags," a spokesman said.

"If customers forget to bring their own bags Coles has a range of options available including the 15-cent 'Better Bag' which is thicker and more durable than single-use plastic bags and can be used multiple times."


The giveaway was criticised by environmental groups. Picture: John Grainger
The giveaway was criticised by environmental groups. Picture: John Grainger

Environmental group Boomerang Alliance welcomed the end of the free bag giveaway.

"But how many branded plastic bags have already infected the environment as a result of this controversial promotion?" the group wrote on Twitter. "And will they remain true to their word this time?"

Earlier this month, Woolworths boss Brad Banducci admitted the supermarket had underestimated the negative reaction to the plastic bag ban and would have done things differently "a second time around".

Announcing its full-year financial results, Woolworths said its sales had been drastically hurt in the first seven weeks of the new year due to the bag ban and Coles Little Shop promotion.

Wesfarmers chief financial officer Anthony Gianotti also conceded that the plastic bag ban had hurt sales, but did not quantify the effect.

The conglomerate noted, however, that Coles' sales in the first quarter had improved, "driven by a successful Little Shop campaign, other promotional initiatives implemented during the quarter, and improved store execution".

Coles faced criticism for its popular toy giveaway, which some said conflicted with the retailer's stated aim of reducing plastic waste.

Undeterred, Coles announced last week it was extending the promotion, originally set to end on August 28, "for another few weeks, until stocks last".

Wesfarmers is currently in the process of spinning off Coles into a separate listed entity, with the demerger expected to be completed by November.

The supermarket faced another public relations disaster two weekends ago when what it described as "some minor IT problems" affecting cash registers forced a number of stores to shut their doors for around three hours.