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About 1.5 billion single-use plastic bags have been eliminated since Coles and Woolworths banned them from their stores, and Western Australia has now implemented its own statewide ban.

The move by Australia’s two largest supermarkets coincided with Queensland’s ban in July last year, and saw free single-use bags phased out in favour of charging consumers for reusable ones.

“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,” says David Stout, manager of industry policy at the National Retail Association.

Overall bag consumption has dropped by more than 80 per cent since the bans came into effect. “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 per cent,” says Stout.

Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT, and the Northern Territory have all banned single-use plastic bags, and Western Australia joined them on New Year’s Day, with the bags now removed from all retailers across the state. Victoria has committed to follow suit by the end of the year, leaving NSW as the only Australian state or territory not to have a ban either in place or planned.

The NSW Coalition government has placed the onus on retailers to remove bags themselves, while the Labor opposition has pledged to implement a ban if it wins government at the March state election.

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