Australian supermarkets work to prevent 'bag rage' as plastic ban takes effect

Police are investigating an incident that happened at a Western Australian Woolworths earlier this month

Police are investigating an incident that happened at a Western Australian Woolworths earlier this month

Australian supermarket workers have found themselves at the front line of an angry consumer backlash over moves to ban single-use plastic bags, with a vocal minority abusing cashiers and one customer wrapping his hands around an employee's throat, union officials said Monday.

A federal parliamentary committee report has also recommended banning single-use plastics including cups, straws and balloons by 2023.

But their employees' union -Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association - said some customers had reacted badly to free single-use plastic bags being replaced by 15 Australian cent (11 cent) reusable bags.

Mr Paramor said the difference in legislation around the country meant retailers had more wriggle room in some states than others.

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

A ban isn't actually due to come into force in Victoria until the end of the year, while there seems to be no hurry for NSW to consider a government-enforced bag ban. Are you concerned about the single-use bags being banned?

Target and Kmart's get out clause in NSW could encourage the supermarkets to reverse their decision to voluntarily remove the bags, she said.

Dwyer said shoppers should check the condition of their bags before handing them to retail staff.

Shoppers down under are apparently fighting with supermarket staff because they're unhappy at having to pay 15 cent (8p) for the bags.

But a buyer backlash led the chain to scrap the paid for bags in 2013 and returned single-use bags to registers after receiving 500 annual complaints about the charge.

One customer took his anger over a lack of free plastic bags out on a female staff member at a Woolworths supermarket at the west coast city of Mandurah on June 22 - two days after the ban began in Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland states, the union's Western Australia assistant secretary Ben Harris said.

The stores, which are both part of Wesfarmers who also owns Coles, have told news.com.au the delay in implementing a ban could actually be a better outcome for the environment. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.

"That's why from now until Sunday, July 8, if customers forget their reusable bags, we'll have complimentary reusable bags available for their shopping at Woolworths".

Another chain, Coles, said it would open every checkout lane on Sunday to reduce queue lengths and put on extra staff to explain the change to customers.

The hope is it will speed customers through the store even if they do struggle with adapting to shopping without traditional bags.

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