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5 Steps to Managing the Bag Ban

August 25, 2017

The National Retail Association has partnered with the Queensland Government to help retailers navigate the new compliance issues, find alternative bag solutions, and to help retailers manage consumer sentiment to minimise negative impacts on their businesses.

The Queensland bag ban will affect all retailers who currently use lightweight, single-use plastic bags, including HDPE plastic, biodegradable, compostable, and degradable bags.

This includes supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, fast food outlets and many other retailers.

From 1 July 2018, you will not be allowed to supply or use any of the bags included in the ban. If you currently use banned bags, you will need to plan, prepare and make changes over the next few months.


All retailers who currently supply lightweight plastic bags will be affected by the bag ban and should take some time to understand the ban and its implications such as:

  • key dates and deadlines
  • which bags are banned and which are allowed
  • what alternatives are available
  • what are the cost implications to your business
  • what support is available

All of the information you need to know About the Ban is available here >>


As a business owner or senior manager, you will need to consider the options available to you and make the best decisions for your business.

How do I know if my current bags are included in the ban?

The Queensland Government’s ban relates to singlet-style plastic shopping bags with a thickness under 35 microns, whether made of HDPE* plastic, biodegradable, or degradable material.

See examples of which bags are banned and which are allowed >>

If you are unsure whether your current bag is under 35 microns, you will need to ask your supplier for evidence of the bags density or weight.

Do I need to provide a bag?

You are not required to provide customers with a bag.

The plastic bag ban is an opportunity to assess whether a bag is necessary for your type of business. You may wish to measure customer traffic or observe customer behaviour for a few weeks and consider:

  • What types of products do you offer? Are they big or small? Light or heavy?
  • What is the typical basket size and basket count? Do customers usually buy just a few items at a time?
  • Do you provide a bag with every purchase or do you usually ask customers when they have a few items?
  • How often do customers ask for a bag?
  • How do think customers would react if you didn’t provide a bag? Have you ever run out of bags and not been able to provide them – how did customers react?

If you decide that your business will no longer supply bags to customers, you will need to prepare your team and customers for the change. Download the free NRA resources here >>

If you have decided to continue offering bags to customers, you need to ensure these are compliant, as well as being practical and suitable to your business needs. There are many alternative bags available – or you could even design your own. 

What alternative bags are best for my business?

Click here to view a list of the most common alternative bags available, and some of the pros and cons of each.

Source: WikipediaShould I charge customers for bags?

Alternative bags have advantages and disadvantages. Some bags cost more per unit but similarly customers seem willing to pay for more reusable bags.

You can either provide no bag at all, supply alternative bags free to your customers, offer them for sale, or a combination of the latter two. 

Please note: you cannot supply banned bags from 1 July 2018 – regardless of whether they are free or charged.

What processes need to change? 

Any change in the bags you offer or sell will mean some change in your business processes – whether as simple as displaying signage or as extensive as reconfiguring your POS area and packing processes.

What are other retailers doing?

Many retailers have been preparing to replace single-use plastic bags over the past ten years. The following examples illustrate some of the solutions retailers have undertaken:

  • In 2003, Bunnings introduced a 10c charge per plastic bag, which resulted in a 99% reduction in bag usage over five years. In 2008, it removed plastic bags from its outlets altogether, replacing them with reusable bags and cardboard boxes.
  • Australia Post stopped offering plastic bags in 2009.
  • In July 2017 Coles, Woolworths and Harris Farm Markets announced that they will be ceasing to supply lightweight plastic bags, not only in Queensland, but nationwide, from 1 July 2018.

What should I do with unused banned bags?

You have until 1 July 2018 to use up existing bag stock. After this date you may be able to recycle unused stock at soft plastic recyclers. The Queensland Government will not reimburse you for any unused stock.


A critical element of managing the ban in your business will be to prepare and train your team, particularly those who have regular contact with customers, such as checkout operators and customer service staff.

Depending on the alternatives you choose to offer, you may also need to consider changes to packing processes, point-of-sale areas and displays, as well as workplace health and safety issues such as packing weights and manual handling.

The NRA has prepared training kits to assist retailers in preparing their team to manage the ban. These kits include the information below as well as sample team talks and additional resources.

Download the full training kits here >>


The Queensland Government will run a large-scale educational campaign from late 2017 to educate and prepare customers for the impending ban, however retailers will need to be prepared to handle customer questions and objections.

The earlier you start to inform customers of the impending ban, the better prepared they will be and the smoother the transition will be for your business. Some of the key steps you should take are:

Prepare your team to answer questions

Single-use plastic bags have been provided free-of-charge for many years so customers will need to change long-held expectations and habits which may result in questions and objections at the point-of-sale. Some questions will be simple and straightforward – what is the ban, why is it happening, and what should I use instead? However some customers may react aggressively or have unusual questions which your team will need to politely handle to avoid negative impacts on your business.

See here for outlines of sample customer questions and suggested responses as a starting point, though your business should consider how you will handle customer queries in your own unique way.


When the ban comes into effect on 1 July 2018, retailers will no longer be able to offer single use plastic bags. Retailers are encouraged to access assistance and advice from the NRA including the free resources and training kits available here.

For more information about the QLD Bag Ban, call the NRA today on 1800 RETAIL (1800 738 245). To attend a Workshop or Info Session near you, head to the QLD Bag Ban website.

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