CHOICE membership

Plastic packaging & plastic bags



I agree - a complex question - and a difficult one for retailers to balance customer expectations with economics and efficiency.

Choice answered the question for me regarding the “re-usable” green bags (sold for $1.50 - $3) which seem to last less than a year before tearing - I wouldn’t get enough use to justify them.

The Queensland ban came into effect 1st July 2018. My small supermarket (more a convenience store, but the only store in town) started selling their single use bags for 10cents each, 2 months before the ban took effect. They suffered loss of trade as a result. They now have boxes free and re-usables for sale.

The takeaway just changed to the thick bags - why? - the chips or chicken pieces are already boxed. Again, consumer expectation, they always got it in a bag.

The bulk supermarket we use for the majority of our shopping has boxes on the shelves, so it is easy to grab a box full or empty and fill. After your trolley is filled they offer bags, but we have always refused as we carry the car fridge, foam & cardboard boxes, their boxes and old plastic bags in the car.

I can sew, and have made rough bags from old clothing (our clothes wear out, we don’t ditch for fashion) and made tulle bags for vegetables in store. Tulle is that netting ballerina’s tutus are made of and I took advantage of a sale to get it for $0.84/m. Environmentally tulle is plastic, but it lasts a LONG time, but there is good & bad in that.

I am old enough to remember paper bags at shops, but they can’t handle condensation on cold goods. I used to clean up a section of highway leading into town, single use plastic bags and drink bottles proliferated with plastic bags hard to get out of prickly acacia. I am happy to see them go.

I am still running into people who demand single use bags because they feel that something has been taken away from them, they abuse the check-out staff and rant to mates, none of whom are responsible or can change it.
Any bags we have are used many times, the cardboard, when no longer holding together as a box, is composted. We don’t have money and we don’t have a garbage service, so that dictates our use of resources.


While the new reusable plastic bags are marginally better for the environment. I also agree that this government regulation was pretty weak. Handing out bags like these (especially for free for the first week!) only contributes to the root problem: some people are simply too lazy to bring their own bags/boxes/etc.

The thing is, though, while I love your compassion for the health of the environment @Gamekeeper and @phbriggs2000, we need to remember that if we make laws that are a bit too upsetting to the naysayers, we’ll get an even bigger backlash than we are currently. Sustainable, long-term habits are created through intermediate habits. Think of a bicycle: you can’t just start in the highest gear. You need to progress through each gear as you gain more momentum. Starting in the highest gear will only lead to the rider giving up or falling off. We can’t have people giving up or falling off the band wagon because we do something too disruptive to their current convenience habits.

Small steps at a time for sustainable progress :slight_smile:


I too agree.

I remember reading (I think it was on the ABC news feed) that single use plastic bags have the lowest environmental footprint cost of the single use plastic, heavy multi-use plastic, ‘green bags’, and paper bags.

What makes it more complex is the fact that so many of the single use bags are only used once. Like many, I reuse ours when they don’t have too large ventilation gaps by the time we get home. Also, a significant proportion of the multi-use bags were found to contain e-coli, and I suspect that the health costs of that were not factored in.

Exacerbating the problem was that the single use bags became thinner and thinner over time, arguably so they broke down faster, but they also punctured more readily. Consequently they were less reusable for things like bin liners, used nappies, and animal excrement.

The sensible answer would have been in my opinion to educate the greater public to re-use the bags, or to return them to collection points for recycling, instead of dumping them.

It’s too late now. What’s done is done. and we will have to start buying thicker plastic bags to use as bin liners once we use up our stash of single use bags. Perhaps the purchase of the thicker bags and bin liners won’t increase significantly, as is the experience in the A.C.T., but that increase will still have an additional impact on the environment because of the longer lifespans of the thicker plastic in the oceans, waterways, and in the ground. On the plus side, maybe there will be fewer plastic bags floating free around the tips, and beside the roadways, maybe?


Great discussion and thanks for the feedback everyone. I’ll be sure to flag it with our content team.


Here is another view…


If only the supermarkets really were getting rid of them. The green reusable bags are still plastic, and disintegrate into millions of tiny peices. They are still selling/giving away thicker plastic bags, which will end up in landfill anyway, so in reality there is just a slight delay in that plastic getting there, or otherwise dispersing across the landscape, potentially ending up in the oceans.
I count balloons, especially when released en masse, as part of the plastics problem.

We really need to stop producing essentially disposable plastic items in general.


Told there is a hold-up at the check-out now that people are turning up with no bags or an odd assortment. They are harder to mount on the bag filling frame. Then they have to re-pack or negotiate buying another bag or three. Dau-in-law was quite frustrated.

This isn’t an issue for the supermarkets who process your goods from trolley to trolley and leave you to wheel your unbagged purchases out to the car park. They will be the winners in this deal.

I wonder if the Big Two will alter the way they process at the check-outs?


My wife was in the supermarket today and saw someone grab a big thick wad of the free bags in Woolies… hardly a win for the environment :disappointed:


I have been using the same two green Coles fabric bags since they were introduced about 14years ago and a large cooler bag for my frozen and chilled items. I don’t understand why anybody thinks it is so hard to use your own bags for shopping. I have a fine nylon bag rolled up in my (very small) handbag for spontaneous purchases whilst out and about, too. I also made a selection of fine net bags from an old net curtain for my loose fruit and veg purchases (never buy prepackaged in plastic)…
We are citizens of the world and the world and all its inhabitants (not just human) are ours to protect not destroy!


They’ve never had a problem filling my own fabric bags over the past 14 years or so…


I think all bags of non-biodegradable and non-renewable resources should be banned. I support the Choice line of “Getting rid of plastic bags”.

In our house we are moving to Jute fibre or 100% cotton bags. We are also experimenting making our own insulated bags with wool and/or cotton wool as the insulating layer, we are quilting to a diamond pattern to reduce wadding (bunching up) but still a work in progress.

We have found the cotton bags are the best for washing if they become soiled with jute a lot harder to launder. I am hoping to find a softer plant fibre fabric (maybe hemp or sisal) than jute to use and avoid the eco damage that cotton growing can have.


We’ve been using reusable bags for years; has been law here since May 2009. We have them in our cars and recently used them in NSW and Qld. Can’t see the issue.


There really is no issue, other than people’s laziness. I used to go shopping by bicycle with my backpack ~30 years ago and put everything in there together- packed myself of course. This used to disturb some staff as they claimed I needed to have everything in plastic bags. On one occasion in KMart it was supposedly a security issue accoring to a staff member!


Good one. You might alternately take an esky into the store. Really easy to handle at the car. Of course the check out staff could not work this out at the loading station. We just popped the plastic bags of cold stuff into the esky. We did this with our monthly shopping trips to the city.


Mogo goes plastic bag free, with a message for the chain-dragging NSW government


I was not impressed with Woolies answer to the plastic bag ban - only 80% recycled material, and imported from Germany!


As an industrial chemist with 20 year’s in management of plastics recycling plants , it is scary how much fake news there is. The Coles process uses an extra process to agglomerate light film for processing and is good. Biodegradable film is a contaminant in recycling.Have shopped at Aldi for 10 years and supplied my own reusable bags. Unpack the bags on the kitchen bench and return to car glove box. How easy is that! Infrequently went to Woolworths for odd items and to get free bin liners. Plastics, despite fake news are non toxic and in fact enhance shelf life of food compared with some third world countries where spoilage is high. Plastics offer many benefits. The main disadvantage is human beings who litter. If there was no littering then there would be no photos of distressed animals bound in plastics. We didn’t ban cars because people were killed by drunk drivers. Don’t ban plastics because of littering. Penalise the litterers and shame them in the press.


I don’t know what the fuss is about…but suppose in the days of social media, it is easy to blow ones top when there is a change to something which has occurred for decades.

We are like @johno1 and many other who take their own shopping bags each time we shop. We principally use calico/cotton ones for the main weekly shop, but also carry nylon ones which roll up into something not much bigger than a golf ball when we go say to a large shopping centre or when travelling (in our day packs). Once one has done it for more than 28 days, it becomes a habit.

My own view is they should ban all plastic shopping bags irrespective if they are single or multi-use (like many places in the world) and then one would need to adjust to the new way, no differently to when boxes were replaced with brown paper bags or brown paper bags replaced with plastic bags.


The reusable plastic shopping bags I have seen to date do not impress me whatsoever.
I have some from Coles and Supa IGA I received whilst they were not charging for them as well as from Chemists Warehouse who still provide them for free when customers purchase prescriptions or spend over $40.
In comparison to the old “single use” singlet bags, they are not as easy to carry and do not easily lend themselves to tying closed if filled with rubbish.
I have been getting extra fruit & veggie plastic bags by placing less items in each one which I then use for food scraps and the like.

Are Coles In La La Land?

They aren’t designed for being thrown in the bin/used as rubbish bags. They are designed to be reusable shopping bags. :slight_smile: