Friday, 3 June 2022: Woolworths has become the first national supermarket to pledge to remove plastic shopping bags for good, with the retailer announcing it will stop selling its 15-cent reusable plastic shopping bags nationwide in a gradual phase out over the next year.
BIG W, Woolworths Group’s everyday needs retailer, will also phase out its 15-cent and 45-cent reusable plastic bags from stores by the end of June next year.
The move comes ahead of World Environment Day this Sunday (5 June), and will see more than 9,000 tonnes of plastic removed from circulation annually.
Eight in every ten Woolworths customers already bring their own bags when they shop, and the retailer is encouraging customers to bring their own bags to boost sustainability, rather than buying them in store. Woolworths’ paper bags made from 70 per cent recycled paper will remain available to those who need them.
The reusable plastic shopping bags will be phased out gradually state-by-state from Woolworths supermarkets, Metros, and online orders, with Woolworths in Western Australia already making the move earlier this year in time for the State Government mandate coming into effect at the end of this month. By June 2023, Woolworths’ more than 1,000 supermarkets nationwide will no longer be selling the 15-cent reusable plastic shopping bag.
BIG W will also phase out its reusable plastic bags nationally by the end of June 2023, introducing additional bag options into the range ahead of the change to complement its existing line of fabric bags and printed totes.
Natalie Davis, Managing Director of Woolworths Supermarkets said: “Our reusable plastic bags were introduced back in 2018 to help customers adjust to the removal of single use plastic bags from our stores.
“We’ve seen a huge shift in shopping habits since we stopped giving out single use plastic bags, with eight out of ten customers now bringing their own bags from home.
“The reusable plastic bags have played their part and now it's time to do away with selling plastic shopping bags at our checkouts for good.
“Bringing your own bags is the very best outcome for the environment, and we encourage our customers to keep up the great work. Paper bags will continue to be available for those who forget to bring their own - but ultimately we want to sell less bags altogether.
“Customers expect us to lead on sustainability, and this is one way we are growing greener by reducing plastic and ensuring the regular trip to your local Woolworths or BIG W is having less impact on the environment.
“We know the change may be an adjustment for some customers and that’s why we’re phasing this change in over the coming year. We’d like to thank customers in advance for their support as we all work together to create a better tomorrow.”
The change has already taken place in Western Australia, where Woolworths supermarkets began phasing out plastic bags in March ahead of new local plastics laws in the state. No other states currently have bans on the sale of thicker reusable plastic bags. Customers in Western Australia have responded well to the move, with 76 per cent saying they support it.
Woolworths stores in South Australia and Northern Territory will be the next to phase out the bags, with the transition set to begin by September this year. Other states will follow. Stores will begin gradually running down stock of the reusable plastic bag prior to its removal.
Woolworths and BIG W will help customers to prepare for the upcoming change, providing notice in each state ahead of time, with reminders via email, advertising and signs in store. Woolworths already offers customers helpful reminders to bring their own bags, including signs in supermarket car parks and the option to turn on a reminder message in the Woolworths app.
Plastic bags to carry fruit and vegetables will continue to be available to customers in the produce department as the supermarket works to explore more sustainable options. In South Australia earlier this year, Woolworths switched to compostable fruit and veg bags - a move made possible by the state’s nation-leading access to household composting.
Woolworths’ reusable plastic bags were introduced in 2018 following the removal of single use plastic bags. The reusable bags are made from 80 per cent recycled materials and can be recycled via the REDcycle bin at the front of every Woolworths store.
Woolworths 20-cent paper bag is made from at least 70 per cent recycled paper and can be recycled in household recycling bins. It has been designed to be reused and can carry up to 6kg of groceries. All paper used is sourced responsibly and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), to give customers confidence their purchase supports sustainable forest management.
Woolworths is aiming to make 100 per cent of its own brand packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end of 2023, and to halve the use of virgin plastic in its own brand packaging by 2024.
Woolworths has removed more than 6,000 tonnes of plastic from circulation through improvements to its own brand packaging since 2018, including 800 tonnes of plastic removed from fruit and veg packaging.