Australia's two major supermarket chains will stop supplying free high density polyetylene single-use grocery bags.
The two chains made announcements within hours of each other on July 14. Coles Supermarkets Pty. Ltd., part of the Perth-based Wesfarmers Group, which has 787 supermarkets, 865 liquor stores, 89 hotels and 690 convenience outlets across Australia, followed an earlier announcement by Woolworths.
While Coles said its decision had been planned "for some time," it appeared to be caught on the hop by its rival's announcement. By July 17, Coles still had not updated its website with the decision.
Its statement said: "The announcement follows several months of consultation with non-government organisations and environmental groups on a plan to transition away from single-use bags."
Woolworths Ltd., based in the Sydney suburb of Bella Vista, has 992 supermarkets.
A Woolworths statement said the chain would no longer offer single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags across its entire store network within the next 12 months.
Its two liquor chains are already single-use plastic bag free.
"The phased approach will begin shortly with the expectation it will be fully in place across the entire Woolworths Group network by at least June 30, 2018," the retailer said.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: "As a group we are committed to listening to our customers and doing the right thing for the environment, and this is an issue we need to take a stand on."
"We currently give out more than 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags a year and hence can play a significant role in reducing overall plastic bag usage."
Banducci said the chain would make other efforts to reduce plastic use in all parts of its supply chain, particularly fruit and vegetables.
The bag bans will apply in the states of NSW, Victoria and Western Australia — the only states where state or territory laws have not already banned free lightweight shopping bags or legislation is in progress.
Both chains said customers will have access to a range of alternative shopping bag options.
Australia's third biggest supermarket chain, Aldi Stores Pty. Ltd., headquartered in the Sydney suburb of Minchinbury, has never offered free shopping bags to customers since it launched in Australia in 2001.