Coles has given up on charging for reuseable plastic bags

William West/AFP/Getty Images

Supermarket giant Coles has buckled to the backlash from its customers over paying 15 cents for reusable plastic bags and will now give them away to shoppers for free indefinitely.

A year ago the retailer announced it would phase out single-use plastic bags in its supermarkets by July 1, but appeared to be caught unprepared for the negative consumer response that followed.

Woolworths made a similar announcement, and now charges 15¢ for bags, having extended its free giveaway of reusable bags for 10 days in June.

Rival Aldi never supplied free bags, instead charging customers 15¢ for heavy duty Aldi-branded plastic bags. The German upstart has successfully eaten into the market share of the supermarket duopoly without appearing to suffer any consumer resistance to customers supplying their own bags.

Last month Coles decided to give the reusable bags away for free during July, in a bid to allay those concerns, but with that extension over, the company has decided to keep giving away the reusable bags for free.

“When Coles phased out single use plastic bags on 1 July in QLD, NSW, Victoria and WA, some customers told us they needed more time to make the transition to reusable bags,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

“We’ve been delighted to see customers grow more accustomed to bringing their reusable bags from home so they are relying less on complimentary bags at the checkout.

“Many customers bringing bags from home are still finding themselves short a bag or two so we are offering complimentary reusable Better Bags to help them complete their shopping.”

The change only applies to the four states. Tasmanian residents will still pay 15¢ a bag after single-use bags were banned in 2014. South Australia banned their use in 2009.

The decision by Coles comes as the retailer faces ongoing criticism over its plastic mini collectables promotion.

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