1.5 billion fewer plastic bags in environment since ban, retailers say
The ban on single-use plastic bags by Australia's two largest supermarkets has prevented the introduction of an estimated 1.5 billion bags into the environment, and the retail industry hopes this is only the beginning.
The decision by Coles and Woolworths to stop offering single-use disposable plastic bags midway through the year was initially met with a swift public backlash.
But, three months on, the radical change has translated to an 80 per cent drop in the consumption of plastic bags nationwide, the National Retail Association says.
"Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90 per cent," NRA's David Stout said on Sunday.
Mr Stout said the ban was a "brave" move from the major supermarkets and it was paving the way for smaller businesses, which typically cannot afford to risk the wrath of their customers, to follow suit.
"They [supermarkets] are obviously seen as the product stewards so a lot of people will come back to them," Mr Stout said.
"Obviously the best thing for smaller businesses is either to engineer out the bag completely or have the customer pay ... they should be able to consider that strategy without fear of backlash."
Mr Stout hopes major retailers will continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable industry and move to ban other single-use packaging options.
"Everyone delivering things in a package need to take responsibility for what they deliver it in," he said.
"I think there's going to be a lot more pressure on all of us to be more aware of what we consume."
With NSW the only state or territory in Australia that hasn't moved to legislate to phase out plastic bags, Mr Stout says it was time to step up and stop relying on the supermarket ban to do the work.
"We're still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used, especially in the food category and, while I get some comfort that the majors have done this voluntarily, I think there still needs to be a ban in place," he said.
"For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there's a multitude of benefits on a whole to doing this."