SYDNEY: Plastic bag consumption in Australia has dropped by more than 80 per cent after two of the country's biggest supermarkets banned the bags earlier this year, said the National Retail Association (NRA) on Monday (Dec 3).
NRA said that a total of 1.5 billion single-use plastic carry bags have been eliminated since Woolworths stopped offering them on Jun 20, followed by rival supermarket chain Coles, which implemented the ban on Jul 1.
Queensland similarly implemented a state-wide ban on Jul 1.
The move, part of a national push to reduce waste, drew a furious response dubbed "bag rage", as customers angry about having to bring their own sacks or pay 15 Australian cents (11 US cents) for a reusable plastic bag abused check-out staff and vented on social media.
"The decision by certain retailers to no longer offer free single-use plastic carry bags certainly received a hostile response from some shoppers initially, but these retailers deserve credit for dramatically reducing the number of bags in circulation," said NRA's manager of industry policy David Stout.
“The bulk of shoppers now use their own bags, which has been instrumental in reducing the number of plastic bags being consumed," Stout added. "Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90 per cent.
"Retailers deserve an enormous amount of kudos for leading the way on one of the most significant changes to consumer behaviour ... and we also applaud shoppers for embracing this environmental initiative."
Stout said that these results have "assisted smaller businesses in providing a template on how to manage the transition to a plastic bag-free retail environment".
"As a result, we are seeing similar changes made across the food, homeware and service categories," he added.