The Warehouse Group is transitioning into offering fully compostable bags across the entire company. This means 254 stores from the red sheds; Warehouse Stationery; Noel Leeming and Torpedo7 will no longer offer petroleum-based plastic bags.
Biodegradable plastic bags are often regarded by retailers as a more expensive option than fossil-based plastic bags, but The Warehouse has been charging its customers 10 cents per bag since 2009. To accommodate the switch, it has simply upped the price to 16 cents to reflect the greater investment per bag, says The Warehouse Group’s David Benattar.
“Charging does change behaviour,” says Benattar. He cites a 70 percent reduction in bag use from when the per-bag charge initiative was introduced.
The Warehouse Stationery and Torpedo7 will start to introduce bag charges when the switch takes effect towards the end of 2018, while Noel Leeming will offer a compostable bag at no cost. Research produced by The Warehouse Group indicates 69 percent of customers preferred to have a bag available, with compostable bags being the most popular option.
“We’ve worked really hard to find a solution that reduces the impact of plastic bags on the environment, while continuing to support the community, and being able to offer customers the option of a bag,” says The Warehouse Group chief executive Nick Grayston.
Benattar says the switch will involve assessing the current stock of bags; phasing them out; and the production of new biodegradable bags, which he says is quite time-consuming. The Warehouse Group looked into local suppliers, but was unable to find one equipped to produce bags at the volume the group required, so selected a Chinese supplier with rigorous environmental standards.
The Warehouse Group handed out an average of 21 billion plastic bags in 2017, Benattar says. He has confirmed that the bags are compostable at home in a standard compost bin, and will degrade into nothing within around three months. If they’re sent to landfill or miss the bin entirely, they will still decompose 10 times faster than fossil-based plastic bags.
All net proceeds from the per-bag charges are given back to the community, with the initiative having generated nearly $4 million so far.
“The way we look at it, it’s a win, win, win,” says Benattar. He says the benefits extend to the environment; the community and customers, who will enjoy an improved customer experience through the new initiative.
“Consumers are becoming more aware, and more demanding – they tell us what they want.”
Benattar says it’s the business community’s responsibility, as those in control of an enormous footprints which have significant social, environmental and financial impacts, to actively consider ways to become better organisations. It’s important retailers lead and innovate in these areas, he says: “I invite all colleagues to jump on board.