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Major Australian supermarkets have eliminated 1.5 billion single-use plastic carry bags since July, following their commitment to ban them across the country.

The decision to stop offering single-use plastic carrier bags by two biggest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, complemented a state-wide ban in Queensland.

According to National Retail Association (NRA) industry policy manager David Stout, the companies introduced reusable options as an alternative to plastic carrier bags, which contributed to an 80% decline in the overall plastic bag usage.

Stout said: “The decision by certain retailers to no longer offer free single-use plastic carry bags certainly received a hostile response from some shoppers initially, but these retailers deserve credit for dramatically reducing the number of bags in circulation.

“The companies introduced reusable options as an alternative to plastic carrier bags, which contributed to an 80% decline in the overall plastic bag usage.”

“The bulk of shoppers now use their own bags, which has been instrumental in reducing the number of plastic bags being consumed. Indeed, some retailers are reporting reduction rates as high as 90%.”

Stout further added that supermarkets have also offered their profits from the sales of reusable bags to various community centres such as Landcare, Clean Up Australia, Little Athletics Australia, SecondBite and Guide Dog.

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He added: “Nationwide retailers have led the way and as a result also assisted smaller businesses in providing a template on how to manage the transition to a plastic bag-free retail environment.

“As a result, we are seeing similar changes made across the food, homeware and service categories.”