Australia's two biggest supermarket giants, Woolworth and Coles, both announced plans on Friday to phase out single-use plastic bags over the next twelve months.
An announcement from Woolworths confirmed that from July 1 next year, its customers will need to bring their own bags when they go shopping or purchase re-usable ones in-store. Shoppers in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia will be affected by the ban.
South Australian, Northern Territory and Tasmanian governments have already implemented state-wide plastic bag bans, and a ban in Queensland will come into effect next year.
The ban will apply to all Woolworths Group stores, including discount department store Big W.
The company currently hands out 3.2 billion lightweight plastic bags each year, Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci revealed.
Banducci said the company had decided to make the switch in response to strong customer support and to do the right thing for the environment.
"We... can play a significant role in reducing overall plastic bag usage," he said.
"Today's commitment shows we are committed to taking our environmental and community responsibilities seriously."
The CEO said the company would be working with their staff to make the transition as simple as possible for customers.
Environmental groups have welcomed Woolworths' announcement, amid a major push for NSW, Victorian and WA governments to implement state-wide bans.
"This ban will stop billions of bags from being used each year in Australia, tens of millions of which can make their way into our waterways and eventually end inside marine life and our food," Greenpeace campaigner Samantha Wockner said.
Woolworths' supermarket competitor, Coles, also followed suit on Friday afternoon with an announcement to match its opposition, saying it too will phase out plastic bags over the next year in its stores in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.
"The announcement follows several months of consultation with a number of non-government organisations and environmental groups on a plan to transition away from single-use plastic bags," a Coles statement said.
Coles chief customer officer, Simon McDowell said the move will look to "improve environmental outcomes throughout our business".
"We know customers like the convenience of single-use bags, so we'll make sure we have plenty of other options for them if they forget to bring their own bags from home."
Greenpeace is now also calling on state and federal governments to follow suit.
"The overwhelming majority of Australians support a ban on single use plastic bags -- which are only used for minutes on average, but then take up to a thousand years to decompose," Wockner said.
A petition by Clean Up Australia and Channel Ten's The Project calling on state premiers Gladys Berejiklian, Daniel Andrews and Mark McGowan to ban single-use bags in supermarkets has amassed 162,615 signatures.
Around 8.6 billion kilograms of plastic waste ends up in our oceans every year. With less than four percent of plastic bags being recycled in Australia, they are a major contributor to this waste.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA