The ACT will be the guinea pig for Coles as it trials the country’s first ban on single-use fruit and vegetable plastic bags from next month.
From Wednesday, 14 September, there will no longer be plastic fresh produce bags available for use in any of the 12 Coles supermarkets across the ACT.
The so-called barrier bags were expected to be banned across the Territory in July this year at the same time as plastic straws and cotton buds with plastic sticks were.
But Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said a previous consultation process with business and the community – including large supermarkets – had shown there “weren’t great alternatives [available] right at the moment”.
Mr Steel said a government ban on barrier bags wouldn’t come into force until a large-scale composting plant is able to manage the compostable versions of the bags.
A procurement process is underway to find a company to build that facility with the exact specifications to be determined further down the track.
The composting plant will be jointly funded by the ACT and Federal governments.
The supermarket giant is encouraging ACT customers to bring in their own reusable options for fruit and vegetables.
Plastic barrier bags will, however, continue to be used in delis and in Coles Online orders, and paper bags will still be available in the fresh produce section for customers to pack their mushrooms.
From 31 August until 13 September, it will also give a free three-pack of reusable mesh produce bags to customers who spend $5 in-store on fruit and veggies. Those bags are made from 90 per cent recycled materials, Coles confirmed in a statement.
Those reusable bags will also available to purchase.
Coles Chief Operations and Sustainability Officer Matt Swindells said the initiative would reduce about 11 tonnes of plastic each year.
“Under our Together to Zero waste ambition, we are always looking for ways to reduce reliance on unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics packaging and provide sustainable solutions to our customers,” he said.
“This will be the first time a major Australian supermarket will trial a completely reusable method of helping customers purchase their fresh fruit and veggies.
“We will be looking closely at how our ACT customers respond. These insights will inform our consideration for potentially rolling this out to our customers nationally.”
There is no end date for the trial at this stage, with Coles waiting to see what the response is like.
In a statement, the supermarket said it had selected the ACT for the trial given the Territory’s recent focus on single-use plastic fresh produce bags.
Mr Steel said this morning he welcomed the news Coles would move away from single-use barrier bags.
“These are problematic plastics as they can’t easily be recycled and so we do want to transition to more sustainable alternatives,” he said.
The City Services Minister said he would be closely watching the trial and would be interested to hear feedback from Coles.
“We hope they have success and it’s something they can roll out across the country.”