Plastic bag ban 'will harm environment by driving up greenhouse gases'

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson with Janine Freeman MLA and Market Place Ballajura IGA Greg Rice

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson with Janine Freeman MLA and Market Place Ballajura IGA Greg Rice

Major Australian supermarkets are facing a customer backlash against a ban on single-use plastic bags that saw a customer in Western Australia reportedly grab a shop assistant by the throat at the weekend.

"We understand that some customers may be upset by this change, but there's no excuse for abusive or aggressive behaviour towards employees", said Gerard Dwyer, a representative of the Trade Union of Australia.

The union says one customer took his anger over a lack of free plastic bags out on a staff member in the west coast city of Mandurah on June 22 - two days after the ban began. The customer had been banned from the store.

Woolworths said the worker who was physically attacked was being supported and police had been contacted.

Consumer complaints forced the Woolworths chain to reverse a charge for reusable bags, and is now offering them free for a week.

Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch predicted that customers taking their own bags to supermarkets would soon become second nature.


Another shopper said she saw a woman steal a big bunch of plastic bags from a self-checkout at Coles ahead of the ban.

The union has launched a public information campaign to discourage customers from taking their frustrations out on staff.

The removal of single-use plastics is part of a national push to reduce waste.

For violation of the ban entails a fine in the amount of 5 thousand Australian dollars, but the government does not intend to penalize sellers and manufacturers until January 1, 2019, as fears that the whole burden of the remaining polyethylene will just be thrown away.

But the most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria - where more than half the Australian population live - have resisted change.

Plastic fresh food packaging, drink stirrers, straws and all single-use plastic bags would be banned under the Greens' policy.

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