Woolworths and Coles are putting an end to plastic bags in their supermarkets

Photo: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Woolworths will stop using “single-use” lightweight plastic shopping bags supermarkets and related businesses within 12 months, the retail giant announced today.

The change includes Metro, BIG W and BWS stores, with Dan Murphy’s and Cellarmasters having already scrapped plastic bags.

Within hours of Woolies making the announcement, rival Coles joined the pledge, saying they too would phase lightweight plastic bags out within a year.

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said the 3.2 billion bags the group currently issues annually will vanish from the network by 30 June, 2018.

An estimated 6 billions bags are used in Australia every year.

“Today’s commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously,” he said.

“Whilst we know this is a major decision, we will work very closely with all of our store teams to ensure the transition for our customers is as simple as possible.

The decision effects stores in states where governments have have not yet banned plastic bags – New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Lightweight plastic bags have already been outlawed in South Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania and Queensland ban comes into effect at the same time as the Woolworths phase out kicks in.

Like Aldi, which charges 15 cents for heavier branded plastic bags or $1 for fabric bags, Woolworths plans to sell thicker reusable bags “at different price points to suit customer needs”.

BIG W customers may be given re-usable bags at no extra cost Banducci said.

During his ABC TV program War on Waste, presenter Craig Reucassel dropped GPS trackers into bag recycling bins at Woolworths and found one ended up in landfill. Two further attempts saw one of the trackers end up in China, with Woolworths saying what happened to the bags was the responsibility of the waste contractors.