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Plastic check-out bag use in non-supermarket retail outlets

Planet Ark Environmental Foundation for the
Department of the Environment and Heritage, March 2005


The survey – Key results: 1

Sector by sector, the study will identify non-supermarket retailers who are or are about to go plastic-bag-free (or have reduced their usage of plastic bags), to see which ones can act as role models for other retailers to follow.

Findings

Analysis

On the one hand, there is reason to be optimistic. From our survey, the majority of retailers have indicated that they either currently stock plastic bag alternatives or they are considering stocking them for their customers. Coupled with the fact that the best role models for plastic bag reduction to date have come from the non-supermarket retail sector, this is promising.

Some chains such as Nando’s, Accessorize, Country Road and Lush cosmetics have managed to ban plastic bags entirely (IKEA have also banned them in some major stores). Bunnings and IKEA have reduced their use by up to 85% by introducing a charge on plastic check-out bags and others such as Red Rooster have halved their use. Stalwarts like McDonald’s have always used paper bags during their thirty years of trading in Australia.

However, our research has shown that within the wider non-supermarket sector, there has been a reluctance to embrace the issue as effectively as is needed. As a result, plastic bag reductions in the N-SR Sector are not occurring as markedly as in the supermarket industry.

Target specific retail sectors – pick the low hanging fruit

Some competitors to the above companies have yet to match their leadership in reducing plastic bag use.

KFC have an outlet that’s nearly plastic bag free in Bondi, but this stands in contrast to their competitor Nando’s who are plastic bag free across all of their outlets. The question should be asked as to why Kentucky Fried Chicken are still using plastic bags, when their main competitors, Nando’s and Red Rooster have swapped to using so many paper bags? Indeed, Red Rooster actually found that “the holding times and quality of their food were far superior in paper bags to that obtained in plastic bags”.

Given the leadership of McDonald’s, Burger King, Hungry Jacks, Nando’s, Red Rooster and Wok on Inn in the takeaway food sector, there is great potential to shift the majority of takeaway food outlets into paper bags and other plastic bag alternatives. Indeed, John Blyth from McDonald’s Australia stated that McDonald’s “would encourage the quick service industry as a whole to consider the move to paper takeaway bags.

Similarly, why can’t other hardware stores reduce their plastic bag usage given the success of Bunnings reductions in all their outlets across Australia? For example, Mitre 10 have reusable bags for sale, but they are a long way behind Bunnings in their plastic bag reduction achievements.

In these sectors and in many others, there are clear role models that other retailers in the same sector can follow. Government pressure may be necessary to make these retailers follow these examples to achieve the plastic bag reductions that are needed.

Role models found

One of the key aims of this report is to identify retailers who can act as plastic bag reduction role models for other companies. As a result of the research for this report, Planet Ark has identified retailers in 24 of the 43 retail sectors surveyed, who are successfully reducing their usage of plastic bags.

The retailers who have given us permission to promote their initiatives are featured on our website for this report at www.planetark.com/retailers As we come across other retailers who

are taking positive moves to reduce plastic bag use, Planet Ark will include them on this site. Here follow some examples of Australian retailers who have taken big steps towards reducing plastic bag usage by providing reusable bag alternatives or by removing plastic check-out bags altogether:

Country Road – Adult Clothing

In all of their stores, the clothing and home wear retailer Country Road primarily give paper bags to their customers. However, during the Christmas period, they also used ‘degradable’ bags from Gispac.

"Being progressive and having integrity are among our most important business values. Using packaging that reflects these values helps us to meet our social responsibilities," says Ian Moir, CEO of Country Road.

Bunnings - Hardware

In August 2003 the Bunnings warehouse chain introduced a 10c charity charge on all disposable plastic bags provided to customers.

"The decision to implement the levy was in response to growing community concern over plastic bags," says Bunnings Pty Ltd Managing Director, Mr Peter Davis.

Since the bag charge was introduced plastic bag use has dropped by 73%. In the first year Bunnings stopped the use of 21 million plastic bags. They have also sold hundreds of thousands of reusable bags to their customers.

IKEA – Discount Department Store, Furniture

In October 2002 IKEA introduced a 10c charge on their plastic shopping bags. Since then IKEA have reduced plastic bag usage by up to 85% in many of their stores.

"We think it makes more sense not to use plastic bags at all. After all, the plastic bags we don’t use, don’t have to be produced, recycled or disposed of, so we immediately save on resources and energy," says IKEA Environmental Coordinator, Gae Gregory. The new IKEA super-store in Sydney’s Homebush Bay Drive, is Australia’s biggest plastic bag free store and is the second IKEA store in Australia to be totally plastic bag free. All of the other Australian IKEA stores will soon follow.

IKEA encourages its customers to bring their own bags, use a trolley to take their goods to their car, or buy an IKEA reusable big blue bag at the cost price of $1.50. Money raised from their 10 cent bag charge has been donated to charities.

Porter’s Paints - Paint/Wallpaper

Porter’s Paint stores have introduced a polypropylene reusable bag as the only option for their customers to take home purchases in.

Up until now, Porter’s have been using single-use paper bags at the check-out. As polypropylene bags are a long-term reusable option, Porter’s Paints Marketing Coordinator Melanie Stevenson believes this is the best bag option for Porter’s and the environment.

Porter’s are even doing away with paper in other areas as well. Their milk paint product used to come in a paper bag. This product now comes in a drawstring calico bag that can be reused.

First National Real Estate – Real Estate agencies

In 2004, First National Real Estate ordered 60,000 Planet Ark Blue Bags to be distributed throughout their 470 offices.

The member offices initially planned to solely use the bags as giveaways to clients and renters as they moved in. The plan was that their customers could re-use them at the supermarket for their shopping. However, many of the members have put forward other ideas to enhance the bags' original purpose.

"Member offices can use the ‘Blue Bags’ to giveaway at open for inspections, field days or simply to hand out to clients," says Mitchell Perry, National Marketing Assistant, First National Real Estate. "These are the primary uses we see for the bags. I am sure they will generate great brand awareness and serve as a fantastic alternative to our current plastic bags."

Holy Sheet - Manchester

Holy Sheet has just introduced paper bags as another option to plastic in all of their 13

outlets.

Combined Rural Traders (CRT) - Hardware

With 315 outlets, Australia’s largest group of independent rural retailers, CRT, is helping to reduce the nation’s stockpile of discarded plastic bags by providing their customers with hessian shopping bags as an alternative to plastic check-out bags.

"This plastic bag problem won’t go away on its own and we all need to do our part," said CRT National Marketing Manager, Adrian Davis.

McDonald’s – Fast Food

For more than 30 years, McDonald's has led the way by using paper takeaway bags in their restaurants. The hamburger giant, which hands out 180 million paper bags to their customers in Australia every year, said takeaway food businesses can make a significant difference.

"A business leader must also be an environmental leader,'' said McDonald's Australian spokesman John Blyth. "We would encourage the quick service industry as a whole to consider the move to paper takeaway bags."

McDonald’s competitors such as Hungry Jacks and Burger King have also led the way in their usage of paper bags. Together these 3 restaurant chains have shown that you can still run a profitable takeaway food business, without the need to use plastic bags.

Nando’s – Fast Food

From December 2004, Nando’s restaurant chain banned plastic bags in all 76 of their restaurants across Australia. In place of plastic bags, Nando’s are using an unbleached recycled paper bag for customers to takeaway their menu items with.

"This changeover is great for the environment as well as our customers as we have found our chicken and other menu items sweat less in paper bags than plastic bags," says Carlos Antonius, National Marketing Manager of Nando’s Australia.

Serving 8 million customers a year, Nando’s will be directly responsible for stopping the use of 1.6 million plastic bags.

Red Rooster – Fast Food

Despite incurring an increase in packaging costs, Red Rooster has introduced paper bags in place of plastic food bags in all of their retail outlets Australia-wide.

After a trial of paper bags in WA outlets, Red Rooster found that the holding times and quality of food were far superior in paper bags to that obtained in plastic bags (the Free moisture content in a paper carry bag is reduced in comparison to the moisture trapped in a plastic bag).

"Since the switch, our plastic bag use has halved," says Phil Tana, General Manager, Operations.

Kangaroo Valley Fudge House - Confectionery

Kangaroo Valley Fudge House has been a Plastic Bag Free shop for over a year. Paper bags have been a well-loved change at the confectionery store.

"Our customers appreciate our efforts to be environmentally friendly. We also enjoy the opportunity to reduce plastic bag waste that damages our beautiful Australian environment.

It is only a small change, but every little bit counts," says Rodney Sudmalis from the Kangaroo Valley Fudge House.

Eclectic and House Old Furniture - Furniture

This furniture store takes a slightly different approach and asks their customers to bring in old plastic bags, reusable bags and boxes to take their purchases home in. They do not buy any check-out bags at all.

Accessorize - Fashion Accessories

With 18 stores around Australia, Accessorize have chosen to get rid of plastic bags. Janet Stewart, the National Product PR Manager for The Body Shop & Accessorize states the reason why they have made the move away from plastic.

"Accessorize aims to become a sustainable business. To achieve this goal we regularly review our activities and make the positive changes needed to improve our environmental performance. Recently we reviewed our use of plastic carry bags and decided that recycled paper bags were a more sustainable option.

We have chosen to replace plastic bags with an Australian made, 50% Recycled Paper bag, printed with Soya Inks and using a water-soluble glue.

"Ultimately, our goal is to eliminate the use of disposable bags (whether they be paper or plastic). The move to paper is one step along the way to improving the environmental features of our bags. The next step is the reusable bag."

Heavy Petting - Pet Shops/Aquariums

Heavy Petting is a small pet store in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, NSW. This store no longer provides any plastic check-out bags at all and is training customers to bring their own bags.

This store also uses reusable tubs for pet meat that the staff happily rinse out when customers return them. If a customer doesn't bring back the tub with the next purchase, they are charged 5 cents for a new one.

They also wrap things in newspaper if packaging is needed.

Bowral Bags - Handbags/Leather/Travel Goods

This handbag and leather goods store is using up the last stocks of plastic bags they have inherited from the previous owner. Once they have used up the remaining 3500 plastic bags, the store will be exclusively using paper bags instead.

Anthony Squires Fine Quality Clothes - Menswear/ Tailoring

Anthony Squires does not approve of or use any single-use plastic check-out bags in their 17 stores. Instead, they use paper bags for their customers and only offer reusable suit bags that customers can bring back and use at any of their stores.

Smales Jewellers - Jewellery /Watch Repairers

This jeweller only uses paper bags in both of their stores, as they believe that small items like jewellery present better in paper gift bags.

Sweet Deliveries - Cake Shops/Bakery

It was a baker called Ben Kearney in Coles Bay who led his fellow retailers in their push to go plastic bag free. Since then, a number of bakers in Australia have followed his lead by doing the same. The Sweet Deliveries Bakery is a good example of one of these bakeries. This store packages all their products in boxes. Customers are given a paper bag to carry their items home in, but only if they request one.

Pearsons Florists – Florists

Everything is wrapped in paper in this florist store and they use paper gift bags for small items.

Oyster Bay Newsagency – Newsagents

This news agency has banned the use of plastic check-out bags in their store.

Barrie Parsons, the owner of the Oyster Bay News agency, says that "only about 1 customer per week asks for a bag and they are offered a paper or a ‘Go Green’ reusable bag. The majority of customers use no bag at all."

Since the news agency went plastic bag free, the Sunday Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald have done a number of NSW State-wide reusable bag giveaways.

These bags have been specially designed to carry newspapers and the Oyster Bay news agency is one of the many newsagents who have given these bags away free with these newspaper titles.

This free reusable bag giveaway in news agencies has also taken place in other parts of the country and represents a major push by newspaper publishers and news agencies to reduce the amount of plastic bags that they use.

Orchid Images - Nursery

This nursery does not use plastic check-out bags at all. They use paper and branded calico bags instead. If customers make large purchases, they also use recycled cardboard boxes.

Lush – Cosmetics

This high profile company only uses paper bags in their 8 stores around Australia.

Anonymous Retailer – Women’s Wear

One high profile Women’s Wear store that did not wish to be named, does not use any plastic bags in their boutique stores. For environmental reasons, paper bags are their only option provided for customers at the check-out.

Liquorland

All 520 Liquorland stores now sell ‘Go Green’ standard bags. In the last 9 months, the Coles Myer Ltd Liquor Group have sold 118,000 ‘Go Green’ bags.

In an innovative move, 30 Liquorland Stores in NSW now sell ‘Go Green’ bags that have dividers for holding either 2, 4 or 6 bottles. Ideal for transporting wine to restaurants or picnics, these reusable bags are a safer way to purchase bottled glass products.

Plastic Bag Free Retailers

Since Coles Bay went plastic bag free in April 2003, other towns have followed their lead in banning plastic bags in all of their retail outlets.

To date, the towns of Coles Bay in Tasmania, Kangaroo Valley, Huskisson and Oyster Bay in NSW and Birregurra, Cannon’s Creek, Metung and Murtoa in Victoria are all Plastic Bag Free Towns. Mogo in NSW is plastic bag free with the exception of 2 retailers.

The sheer variety of stores that have gone plastic bag free in these towns has shown that it’s possible for all retailers Australia-wide to significantly reduce their usage of plastic bags.

Indeed, in the NSW town of Huskisson alone, over 70 businesses have managed to become plastic bag-free.

A full list of the role model retail outlets that have gone Plastic Bag Free as a result of Planet Ark’s Plastic Bag Free Town campaign are listed in the table overleaf:

Plastic bag free retailers by retail category and location
Store type Coles Bay Kangaroo Valley Huskisson Oyster Bay Birregurra Cannon's Creek
Metung Murtoa TOTAL
Bakery 1 1 1 1 4
Bottle Shop 1 3 3 1 1 1 10
Post Office 1 1 1 1 1 5
Seafood Takeaway 1 2 1 4
Tourist & Information Centre 1 1 1 3
Delicatessen 1 3 1 5
Antique/Gift Stores 3 1 2 6
Homewares 1 2 3
Gallery 2 2 1 4
Craft/Pottery/Gift Stores 4 5 4 9
Garden Centres/Nurseries 3 3 5
Takeaway Restaurants 2 7 1 9
Outdoor Markets 1 1
Service Station 1 2 6 9
Cafés 6 4 3 2 15
Clothes Boutiques 6 1 7
Photo/Camera shops 2 2
Pharmacy 1 1 1 1 4
Real Estate 3 3 2 7
Butcher Shops 1 2 2
Discount Shops 2 2
Fruit & Vegetable stores 1 1 2
Beautician/ Hairdressers 4 1 5
Picture Framing 1 1
Bait shops 1 1
Newsagent 1 2 1 1 5
Electrical Shops 1 1
General Store/Corner Store 1 1 1 1 4
Lolly Shop/Icecreamery 1 1 1 3
Hardware Stores 1 1 2
TOTAL 140
NB. The above table does not include the many plastic bag free stores in other towns and suburbs.