Australians are so angry with plastic bag charge ‘they’re strangling shop staff’

A shopper selects items inside a plastic bag-free Woolworths supermarket in Sydney

Woolworths and Coles past year announced plans to voluntarily remove free lightweight plastic bags from their stores nationally and instead offer more environmentally friendly reusable bags for 11 United States cents each.

From 1 July in two Australian States have enacted a ban on the use of disposable plastic bags.

On Friday, Woolworths back flipped on its plastic bag ban, saying it will now hand out free reusable bags to frustrated shoppers for the next 10 days.

But after a series of customer complaints, Woolworths announced it would give away "reusable" plastic bags - which would usually cost 15 cents - free of charge until July 8.

Bans in Queensland and Western Australia came into force on Sunday and retailers face fines of up to $6300 each time they hand over a plastic bag.

Consumer complaints forced Woolworths to backflip on charging customers 11 U.S. cents (15 Australian cents) for a reusable plastic bag, with the retailer now offering them free until July 8.

Woolworths, and its liquor brand BWS, binned the bags on June 20, while Coles, IGA and Woolworths owned department store Big W followed suit on July 1.

Single-use plastic bags are still available at the registers of their stores in both Victoria and New South Wales. Are you concerned about the single-use bags being banned?

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"While we understand that some customers may be frustrated by this change, there is absolutely no excuse for abusive or violent behaviour towards retail staff", said Gerard Dwyer, national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, in a statement on the union website.

Supermarket staff have also had to deal with customers forcing them to overload plastic bags and to handle unhygienic bags that previously contained vomit or dirty diapers. "That's why we have advocated for a ban because, ultimately, retailers still have the freedom to pick and choose when it comes to plastic bags".

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said single-use lightweight plastic bags were a major contributor to horrific issues in the environment.

'It'll take a little while for some members of our public to get used to remembering to take their reusable bags, but it won't take long until many of us just use it as everyday practice, ' she said.

"We know that about 75 per cent of all debris that we find along the coastline is plastic waste", she said.

Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory have already banned single-use plastic shopping bags.

NSW is the only Australian state not pursuing a ban on single-use plastic bags.

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