Coles will bin the bags from Sunday. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Coles will bin the bags from Sunday. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Plastic bag ban: Coles prepares for worst

COLES' plans to phase out plastic bags this weekend have hit a road hump with the store now set to take drastic action to head off an expected backlash from shoppers.

The chain is the second of the two majors to bin the bags following Woolworths' decision to remove them on June 20.

Checkout staff are on tenterhooks after Woolworths staff reported they were "abused countless times" when the chain binned the bags on June 20. Union representatives have said they even fear some angry customers could become violent.

IGA will also can the carriers on July 1 as plastic bags bans come into force in Queensland and Western Australia, joining the ACT, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory where they have already been phased out.

Coles will bin the bags from Sunday. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Coles will bin the bags from Sunday. Picture: Glenn Hampson

The Victorian Government says it will ban bags by the year's end. NSW has not enacted a ban, but with Coles, Woolies and IGA all on board - and Aldi never having given away free bags - you'll be hard pressed to find a thin plastic bag come Sunday.

Retailers in Queensland could face fines of $6300 each time they hand over one of the banned bags.

The shoppies union has pleaded with customers not to take the ban out on staff saying "there is no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff".

Coles has now announced that on Sunday it will open every checkout in all its stores as it anticipates huge delays in store as customers struggle with the bag ban.

"To minimise disruption to our customers and help them with the transition to no single-use plastic bags, all check-outs will be open in Coles stores between 10am and 6pm on Sunday, July 1," a Coles spokesman told news.com.au.

"In addition to this, from Monday, July 2 through to Sunday, July 8, we will open extra check-outs in states where bags will be removed for the first time. Specifically, additional check-outs will be open in between 9am and 9pm in New South Wales and Victoria, and 9am and 7pm in Queensland and Western Australia."

Some Woolworths staff have said they were abused but customers when that store’s ban came in on 20 June. Picture: AAP Image/Woolworths Group, PPR, Dallas Kilponen.
Some Woolworths staff have said they were abused but customers when that store’s ban came in on 20 June. Picture: AAP Image/Woolworths Group, PPR, Dallas Kilponen.

It's a step change for Coles which, up to now, has assured customers that it had everything in hand. Just days ago the supermarket told news.com.au it had been planning for the change for more than a year and no special measures would be needed in store or by staff.

However, the experience of Woolies staff, which have had to face the fury of some customers over the week, has changed their position.

"I work at Woolies and have already been abused countless times, it's not our fault," said staff member Lauren McGowan last week.

Woolworths has said it will donate any profit from the sale of some green bags to charity, will replace broken bags and recycle used ones.

"How can people still be mad?! People just need to become more organised," Ms McGowan said.

Her experiences were backed up by fellow supermarket worker Mel Tolman: "I am a chick out chick and was abused numerous times on my shift on Wednesday. But in great customer service we grin and bare it".

IGA stores will also withdraw bags from 1 July. Picture: IGA.
IGA stores will also withdraw bags from 1 July. Picture: IGA.

The SDA union, which represents retail workers, has asked customers not to "bag" staff.

"While we understand that some customers may be frustrated by this change, there is no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff," SDA National Secretary Gerard Dwyer said.

Mr Dwyer said the union will be reminding retail staff about their rights, including not overloading bags at the customer's request and not handling extremely dirty or unhygienic bags.

"Retail workers should not have to bear the brunt of any abusive behaviour, just for following the new rules."


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