Plastic bag policy all talk, no action

Claire Morgan, Eric Barnes, Emily Ackew, Paul Nee

Coles fail to enforce environmental initiatives to combat Australia’s plastic bag consumption, despite clear company policies to encourage the use of Green Bags.

Photo by Jacqui Henderson, Livia Parsito, Yammi Lee

Photo by Jacqui Henderson, Livia Parsito, Yammi Lee

Eastgate and Westfield chains in Bondi Junction are both bound by the Australian Retailer’s Association (ARA) Code of Practice to reduce plastic bag usage throughout their stores, but evidence shows that these policies are not being enforced effectively.

“If a customer has three items or less, staff are not encouraged to give plastic bags unless asked,” said the Eastgate Coles Customer Service Manager. “But the procedure is not enforced.”

Coles did agree to the ARA Code of Practice to reduce plastic bag consumption by 2005. However, a 2009 survey of checkout procedures revealed plastic bags were issued to customers buying three items or less without being asked. These included portable items, such as bread and chewing gum.

The results highlighted that over 50% of customers with 3 items or less received plastic bags automatically. Customers were not offered alternative Green Bags or paper bags, and these were not made clearly visible in the stores.

The Customer Service Manager said: “the older demographic in the Eastern suburbs love their plastic bags…The customer gets what they want.”

Jim Cooper, Coles Myer Media Manager, was unable to confirm a plastic bag reduction policy exists. “I would need to check with our stores to see if any policy is in place,” he said.

The Eastgate CSM said that the three-items-or-less initiative was not an “official store policy per se”.

The Westfield Coles Store Manager declined to comment on whether a policy is in place for the plastic bag management.

Derek Wilson, a 64-year-old Eastern Suburbs resident, said: “something’s got to be done and everyone needs to play their part in saving the environment”.


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