Plastic bag bans began on Wednesday in 12 Woolworths stores across the country on Wednesday, with four Coles stores to follow suit on 30 April.

The phase-out of bags is expected to continue until all bags are phased out by 20 June for Woolworths and 1 July for Coles.

The news was welcomed by Planet Ark.

“Single-use plastic bags have become a huge problem for Australia’s oceans and waterways where they cause significant harm to turtles, whales and fish,” Planet Ark chief executive Paul Klymenko said.

“Not only do they require significant resources to manufacture in the first place, they also don’t break down in landfill.”

Planet Ark said it did not usually support product bans, but did in the case of single-use plastic bags and drinking straws due to the harmful impact they have on marine life and the amount of time they stay in landfill.

Planet Ark is calling now for a similar ban of drinking straws.

In the UK 1200 McDonald’s outlets have committed to phasing out single-use plastic drinking straws by May, while the Queen this year banned plastic cups and straws from palaces.