Plastic bags dilemma

Warrandyte Diary, August 2014

Quinton’s IGA may be forced to abandon its plastic bag charge scheme if it can’t recuperate the number of customers who disagree with the scheme and no longer shop at the store.

The supermarket began charging 10 cents per plastic bag in March last year in an effort to reduce plastic waste, which kills thousands of animals each year.

Local volunteer group, Warrandyte Climate Action Now, led the ‘Make Warrandyte Plastic Bag Free’ campaign, encouraging Warrandyte businesses to help reduce the 4 billion plastic bags used by Australians annually.

IGA owner Julie Quinton says the initiative has been successful in other communities such as Anglesea, but feels like she’s “fighting a losing battle” in Warrandyte, with too many customers leaving because of the plastic bag charge.

“We’re now down 1000 customers a week. Six months in we started to receive more negative feedback about the cost of the plastic bags. As time has gone on people are forgetting their bags and for people that are spending hundreds of dollars on their groceries, it adds on costs to their shopping,” Julie said.

“My passion was for the environment but I don’t know which way to jump. If we can’t get our numbers back up to what it was before, I’ll be forced to drop it.”

She says the supermarket was only using 1000 plastic bags a week after the launch, but that figure has now increased to 8000 plastic bags each week.

Julie says the message behind the initiative has been lost, with customers verbally abusing cashier staff about the cost of the plastic bags more frequently.

The 10 cent charge has allowed IGA to raise nearly $9000 dollars for the local CFA fire brigades in the past year.

Warrandyte CAN president, Wayne Rankin, says it has been difficult to convince Warrandyte businesses to go plastic bag free, and described the backlash from some customers as “a slap in the face”.

“If people are complaining that if they wanted to donate to the CFA they’d do so themselves and therefore shouldn’t have to pay 10 cents for a plastic bag – well, I think that’s pretty poor. People really supported this at the start and all you have to do is remember to put your reusable bags in the car. How hard is that?” he said.

“With that being said, we understand Julie’s position and we’re really grateful to her and everybody in the community that has taken on paying for plastic bags. If IGA pulls out then we can’t do anything about that but we can still keep up the campaign.”

Warrandyte CAN’s Jill Dixon says even though IGA may pull out of the campaign, more locals are now aware of plastic’s detrimental impact on the environment.

“Now it’s about keeping that awareness going. In the beginning, we ran two separate surveys and 90 percent of people said they did want Warrandyte to be a plastic bag free community. You can see that there’s so much goodwill and positive attitude. As for the issue of a few grumblers not wanting to pay, I think that’s just the normal downside you can expect in any campaign.”

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Brianna Piazza

Journalist and travel writer.