Flip-Flops and Carrier Bags

William of Ockham risks legal action over exclusivity rights to bring us this story about carrier bags:

In Australia, most states/territories, with the exception of New South Wales, have banned supermarkets from giving away single use plastic bags with shopping.

In response to this, the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths have removed said bags from New South Wales’ stores too. I’m sure this decision was reached for purely environmentally-righteous reasons and not simply because running two different processes and sourcing operations is inefficient.

Only a few days later:

Supermarket giant Coles has buckled to the backlash from its customers over paying 15 cents for reusable plastic bags and will now give them away to shoppers for free indefinitely.

A year ago the retailer announced it would phase out single-use plastic bags in its supermarkets by July 1, but appeared to be caught unprepared for the negative consumer response that followed.

So customers find carrier bags useful and prefer them to be free? Who would have thought? The hand-wringing middle classes didn’t like this though, among them the otherwise sensible Claire Lehmann, founder of Quillette:

Whereas I’d say it takes a lot more balls to reject pointless middle class environmental posturing than to go along with it. Good on Coles’ customers! Alas, my celebrations were to be short-lived:

Coles has done a double backflip on providing free plastic bags and will recommence charging customers for them after coming under fire from green groups and consumers for giving them away for free.

In a message to the retailer’s 115,000 staff on Thursday, Durkan said the ban on single-use plastic bags had been a “big and difficult” change for customers.

While customers had been growing more and more accustomed to bringing reusable bags, many were still finding themselves one or two short at the register.

So in the absence of a law banning free bags in New South Wales, who is driving this campaign against customers’ interests?

Environmental groups, including a vocal Greenpeace, and like-minded shoppers had heaped criticism on Coles for deciding to go back on its original plan to only temporarily provide reusable bags for free.

Ah yes. As usual, it’s a loud minority of wealthy middle class do-gooders via multi-million dollar lobby groups masquerading as charities. That Coles sided with them over actual customers says a lot about modern corporate management.

Liked it? Take a second to support Tim Newman on Patreon!

19 thoughts on “Flip-Flops and Carrier Bags

  1. What gets me is the phrase “buckled to consumer pressure”. Isn’t the primary aim of a business to make a profit by giving people what they want?

  2. Aussies should boycott Coles.

    But then the womi boss class can always get another job with a fake charity or an NGO if the “business” thing falls through.

  3. Aussies should boycott Coles.

    It’s kinda hard to, they enjoy a pretty healthy duopoly with Woolworths in many places.

  4. This is the main problem with capitalism that capitalism develops to left extremist oligarchy, known also as communism, very fast.

    And boycotts do not work. It is possible to run economy with 90% people excluded. Ferrari is constantly boycotted by 99.9999% of population and they are not starving.

  5. Meh – we have adjusted to the concept of the 5p bag here in porridgewogland.
    The big strong multi-use bags are a) generally good, b) better than the carrier bags they replace and, most importantly, c) actually really useful around the house.

    It takes a teeny tiny bit of forethought to ensure you have them in the car when you go shopping, but it’s not a massive imposition.

  6. It takes a teeny tiny bit of forethought to ensure you have them in the car when you go shopping, but it’s not a massive imposition.

    I’ve found a lot of things are less hassle if you have a car. If you don’t, on the other hand…

  7. The P-G–Yes it is. You are kissing the arse of Sunstein and such like nudge-scum if you comply. I now take their wheel trollys and even handbaskets out to the car.

    If they give you lined paper write the other way.

  8. “The P-G–Yes it is. You are kissing the arse of Sunstein and such like nudge-scum if you comply. I now take their wheel trollys and even handbaskets out to the car.”


    I wonder what it is costing the supermarkets in lost baskets and increased shoplifting (from people taking their own bags into the store)?

    Mind you, we are still paying for the plastic bags we are NOT getting in the cost of our shopping so I guess that covers some of it…?

  9. Yes, I was a bit surprised by Claire Lehmann’s response, but I’m going to try not to insist on perfection. As suggested, the world is becoming run by the mob, to the detriment of perfectly normal, good people. I would be very interested in what happens behind the scenes since corporations are completely terrified of these people. What would happen if these companies hadn’t flip-flopped. Would it really have hurt their bottom line? If so, how? They were profitable before this whole thing happened, so how do threats by the environmentalists change the equation? Could they really create a boycott that would make a material difference or do they destroy these companies by other means?

  10. I appreciate the commentary Tim. The thing is the science on packaging is in and has been for ages.

    Plastics bags are given away because its an effective and efficient alloxation of resources. All the alternatives use more resources. Furthermore the all end up as bin liners anyway.

    The whole idea packaging is wastful is contray to what we know, it saves resouces normally wasted food.

    Greenpeace is about empowering middle aged nasty middleclass woman over theie level competence.

  11. I read the title and thought it was about weirdy-beardies wearing funny shoes and carrying man purses. 🙂

  12. @Benaud on August 5, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Spot on

    Packaging is a cost, manufacturers (except luxury & gift) strive to minimise it without increasing spoilage.

  13. One way of combating this on this side of the pond is to demand several hundred of the 5-cent bags, and that they be counted out individually so you can be sure you’re getting all the bags you’re paying for. When the cashier demurs, or better yet gets the manager, calmly explain that they are selling the bags individually, you would like to purchase them for your own use, you want exactly 732 bags, no more, no less, and you’d like them counted out for accuracy and quality’s sake.

    If they offer to just give you a couple of 500 packs to get you out of the store and stop clogging the lane, you’ve got them: ask them very pointedly why it’s okay for them to give you a few hundred free bags, but not okay for them to give you five free bags.

  14. I always wondered what happened to the thick paper bags we used to get when shopping in the 70’s? Too expensive? Less environmentally friendly?

    My local shopping centre has two Coles in it. So their competitor can’t move in. It is quite funny. There is a “good” historical corporate reason for this but it still makes me laugh.

  15. I suppose I need to make my position clear at the outset.

    The 5p bag in Britain was a policy invented by the Liberal Democrats and enacted by Cameron’s governent.

    It is therefore automatically wrong and possibly evil.

    I don’t mind paying 5p for a bag. When my average shop is 20quid, 5 or 10p is not an issue, the bags sometimes get re-used in shopping trips but generally end up as bin bags, for which they are excellent because they are so large and sturdy ( except ASDA ones which are crap ). My real problem is that I have no control as to whom my 5p goes as charity. This was solved by a local Tesco which give the customers a token to decide which local charity gets the money ( Cats Home usually). So apart from my above-mentioned ideological opposition, in some places it works really well.

  16. When I shop at Waitrose (not too often now, I find the lack of virtue signalling in Lidl refreshing, and the customers no less irritating in their way) I get a token to select a local charity. I have a big pile of such tokens now, one day one of the approved charities on offer will meet with my approval.

  17. Surely everyone re-used shopping bags as bin bags? I certainly used to before they started charging, the quality went down and they started to rip very easily.

    I now have to pay for bin bags so the same amount of plastic bags are used but I now have to pay for them instead of getting them for free. Only winner is the supermarket – no wonder they enthusiastically support the ban!

  18. Tim, you’re right to raise this absurdity, and Benaud has it right about the science.

    The Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark put out a very thorough study earlier this year (2018), which showed that the green posturing is just that – posturing.

    The study is available as a pdf at this link:

    The killer table is Table IV from the executive summary, which shows how many times you’d need to use the other types of bag to match the environmental performance of the conventional LDPE bag. The table loses its formatting here, but for example a recycled PET bag would need to be used at least 84 times to match the LDPE bag, and an organic cotton bag (‘organic’ and ‘cotton’ so must be super virtuous, yeah?) an astonishing 20,000 times!
    It should beggar belief that Greenpeace and the angst-ridden middle classes push this c**p, but I’m afraid it no longer does.

  19. It takes a teeny tiny bit of forethought to ensure you have them in the car

    TPG, this particular argument drives me nuts, especially since I see it so often. I’m generally on public transport, rarely drive, often drop by the supermarket on the way home. So how many bags do you think I should shove in my jeans pocket every day?

    How about you employ a teensy bit of forethought to think about potential failure modes?

    A correction though Tim, I don’t think ‘single use’ bags haven’t been banned in Victoria either. Coles and Woolies decided to drop them here also, but not because they were banned as far as I know.

Comments are closed.