Supermarkets are set to make a whopping $71 million profit on the heavy duty reusable plastic bags they are selling to customers for 15c.
On top of that Woolies and Coles are saving $170 million a year by no longer giving away free plastic bags.
Numbers crunched by the Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Gary Mortimer show that the supermarkets are cashing in on the new policy after previously providing six billion bags a year at a cost to them of three cents a bag.
Prof Mortimer found the heavier reusable bags for sale online at 9c, instead of the 15c supermarkets are charging.
“But if you are buying in bulk, you would get a cheaper price,” he said.
He said an estimate of 1.19 billion multi-use bags being sold meant the supermarkets were bagging a $71 million gross profit. How much of that goes in handling and packing was hard to estimate because the supermarkets “simply will not say”.
Prof Mortimer also said that research from other countries shows that the new program does not necessarily help the environment with shoppers forgetting their bags and returning to their old habits.
A survey in South Australia found seven out of 10 shoppers did not recycle their reusable bags.
“This is a major behaviour change for consumers and they want to be reassured that they are not being ripped off,” Deakin University lecturer Dr Trevor Thornton said.
“Supermarkets need to be more transparent about the costs otherwise this debate will just go on and on.”
Coles and Woolworths refused to reveal what profit they are making from the 15c bags.
The supermarkets have also introduced longer-life eco bags with 10 per cent of the sales price of the bags at Coles going to charity including Guide Dogs Australia and Little Athletics. The charities get 10 per cent of the cost of bags which range from $1 to $3.
Woolworths said any money made from its 99c bags was donated to the Junior Landcare Grants Program.