Plans to ban plastic bags from Illawarra stores have been shut down by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, who have rejected Wollongong City Council's requests to have the bags removed.
In letters addressed to council in January, the retailers outlined their commitment to the environment but refused to ban single-use plastic shopping bags from their stores, citing the need to "support" customers' freedom to make their own choices.
"In our view the decision to use or reuse plastic bags is one for customers to make," Woolworths said in the letter.
Coles took a similar stance, writing that: "We recognise that our customers have differing views about plastic bag bans and by offering choice we believe we are respecting all customer views."
Both retailers outlined the many ways they encourage customers to reduce plastic bag usage, including by offering reusable bags and providing in-store recycling bins for plastic bags.
The letters form part of a report compiled by council, after councillors resolved to take action on the issue at a meeting in August last year.
The report will be tabled at Monday night's council meeting, with the recommendation that council continue current education and awareness programs to reduce the use of plastic bags, and target the problem as part of a broader litter reduction campaign.
Council has already added a "Beyond Plastic Bags" page to its website, outlining alternatives to using plastic shopping bags.
It also proposes to promote businesses who voluntarily reduce or eliminate plastic bags from their businesses.
Late last year council unsuccessfully appealed to the state government to introduce a NSW-wide plastic bag ban.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), on behalf of the government, told the council it was committed to reducing plastic bag use but argued it needed to be done without "increasing the cost pressures on families or the cost of groceries".