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Australian supermarkets work to prevent 'bag rage' as plastics ban takes effect

04 July 2018

The Australian retail workers' union reminded customers there was no excuse for abusive behaviour towards staff.

Dozens of supermarket staff have suffered abuse as two major Australian grocery chains struggled to impose a ban on single-use plastic bags, with one irate customer putting his hands around a shop assistant's throat.

Australia's biggest supermarket chains are scrambling to combat "bag rage" as frustrated shoppers vent their anger over the removal of single-use plastic bags.

Retail giants Woolworths and Coles, which account for around 70 per cent of the Australian supermarket trade, announced last month new goals to reduce plastic products and packaging in response to customers wanting a greener shopping experience.

Single-use plastic bags are still available at the registers of their stores in both Victoria and New South Wales.

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Woolworths customers will have until July 8 to take up the offer.

"That's why, by 2019 we will have stopped providing single-use plastic bags in all our stores across Australia".

Woolworths and Coles a year ago declared plans to wilfully expel free lightweight plastic bags from their stores broadly and rather offer all the more naturally benevolent reusable bags for 15 Aus pennies (11 U.S. pennies) each.

Target's lethargy on plastic bags is surprising as they were once a leader in the retail sector on the sustainability of shopping bags.

As well as complaints about the cost of bags, the union said customers are pressuring staff to overload the reusable bags so fewer are required and to handle unhygienic bags that customers have brought with them, including ones that contained vomit, dirty diapers and rat feces.

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The Queensland ban does not apply to dog poo bags in off-leash parks, nappy bags, deli bags for fruit and vegetables, and thicker department store bags.

Despite the rocky start Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch thinks customers will eventually become used to re-using bags at supermarkets.

A ban isn't actually due to come into force in Victoria until the end of the year, while there seems to be no hurry for NSW to consider a government-enforced bag ban.

"They just want a little extra help from us to get through the transition", said Claire Peters, Woolworths managing director, in an emailed statement.

Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory have already banned single-use plastic shopping bags.

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Customers across the country will now have to supply their own bags when they do their grocery shopping, as Coles implements the ban in all Australian stores.

Australian supermarkets work to prevent 'bag rage' as plastics ban takes effect