Both Woolworths and Coles have declared a war on waste, going to differing lengths to convince the public that they take their plastic packaging waste seriously. It will be interesting to see how it affects suppliers.
Coles’s 10-point plan
Coles has undertaken to halve food waste across its supermarkets by 2020, make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable, and reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables.
The announcement of 10 Coles Commitments on Packaging and Recycling comes as the retailer prepares its customers for the phasing out of single-use plastic bags on July 1.
Significantly, Coles also pledges to divert 90 per cent of all supermarket waste (including food, cardboard and plastic) from landfill by 2022 and donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by 2020 by redistributing surplus food.
Coles managing director John Durkan said Coles wanted to lead the way in its commitment to the environment.
“We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste,” he said.
“We are delighted to be the only Australian supermarket to sell own-brand water bottles that are both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent made from recycled materials. Now we are the first major food retailer in Australia to announce a target to make all of our own brand packaging recyclable by 2020, ahead of the Federal Government’s target of 2025.”
“By the end of this year we will also connect every Coles store to the vital food rescue program, SecondBite, meaning surplus edible food from every Coles supermarket will be redistributed to people in need. By connecting an additional 130 supermarkets to SecondBite this year, we will also be further diverting food waste from landfill.
“By 2020, we want to provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need. Since 2011, we’ve donated around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank so we’ve still got 28 million meals to go.”
Coles has also pledged to label all Coles Brand products with recycling information to help customers know how and where to dispose of their waste.
Coles’ commitments to recycling and packaging also include:
- A program to reduce plastic wrapping of fruit and vegetables through new initiatives such as removing double plastic packaging for fruit, selling bunched vegetables like kale and silver beet without plastic, and removing plastic packaging from Coles Brand bananas.
- Replacing packaging for a wide range of meat and poultry products with packaging made from recycled and renewable materials.
- Replacing existing single use fresh produce bags with bags which have 30% recycled content.
- Providing customers with an option to recycle all their soft plastics at every Coles supermarkets across Australia, to then be converted into a range of products including outdoor furniture and road base.
- Providing an additional one million reusable crates for fresh produce in our Coles supply chain in 2019 to replace single-use cardboard and polystyrene boxes, adding to the 6 million reusable plates currently being used.
…achievements to date
- Since 2011, we’ve donated the equivalent of around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank.
- Since September 2014, all Coles Brand water bottles made from 100% recycled PET (rPET).
- Only Australian supermarket to have its own crate recycling program in Australia with more than 6 million reusable crates in circulation.
- Commitment to remove single use plastic shopping bags across all Coles businesses by 1 July 2018.
- In 2011, Coles was the first Australian supermarket to provide a soft plastic recycling program to customers across Australia through REDcycle.
- First Australian supermarket to provide soft plastic recycling in every store.
- More than $12 million in grants or interest-free loans to 27 different producers as part of the $50 million Nurture Fund.
…and commitments for the future
- Divert 90 per cent of supermarket waste (including food, cardboard and plastic) from landfill by 2022.
- Halve food waste in Coles supermarkets by 2020.
- Donate unsold edible food from every Coles supermarket in Australia.
- Provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need by donating unsold, edible food.
- Work with suppliers to reduce food waste.
- All Coles Brand packaging recyclable by 2020.
- More recycled material in Coles brand packaging.
- Introduce new labelling to promote recycling.
- In-store soft plastic recycling options in every Coles supermarket.
- Reduce excess packaging across our stores and supply chain.
Phasing out the sale of plastic straws, further reductions in plastic packaging in fruit and vegetables, and the launch of a new reusable shopping bag are amongst a number of sustainability initiatives announced by the Woolworths Group.
On the eve of World Environment Day, Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci made the announcements at an industry sustainability event hosted at the Group’s Support Office in Bella Vista, Sydney. The new initiatives announced, include:
- By the end of 2018, all stores within the group in Australia and New Zealand will no longer sell plastic straws – saving 134 million plastic straws from going into circulation each year.
- With the nationwide phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags on 20 June, Woolworths Supermarkets will offer a new green reusable shopping bag – with a lifetime replacement offer – for customers to purchase. All money made from the sale of the Bag for Good in FY19 will go towards the Junior Landcare grants program.
- In an ongoing effort to remove unnecessary packaging in produce, Woolworths is committed to trial the removal of plastic packaging on a further 80 lines over the next year. This will build on the 140 tonnes of plastic saved in the fruit and vegetables range in the last year.
- A commitment for 100% of Woolworths Supermarkets to have a food waste diversion partner by the end of 2018.
- Woolworths to lead the establishment of a new Packaging Coalition Roundtable bringing together government, NGOs and key industry partners including Unilever, Nestlé, Simplot, VISY and the Australian Packaging Covenant to find ways to move towards a circular economy in Australia.
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: “In the last year, we have seen a shift towards more sustainable attitudes from our customers and the momentum is growing, with recent research showing a 15% increase in Australians now saying that taking care of the planet is important to them.
“While we’ve made progress in reducing the amount of plastic in our stores, supported recycling labelling initiatives, and made improvements in energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing and reducing food waste, we know that more needs to be done to meet our customers’ expectations.
“Today’s initiatives represent further small, but important steps in our commitment to make positive change happen. We understand the journey towards a more sustainable future has its challenges, but together with our customers and industry partners we are committed to moving our business, our country and our planet towards a greener future.”
The sustainability event at the Woolworths Support Office also included global perspectives on sustainable retailing from Peter Skelton from WRAP UK, while Craig Reucassel from ABC’s War on Waste facilitated a panel of industry leaders discussing the challenges and opportunities of moving to a circular economy.
The panel included Angus Harris (Co-CEO Harris Farm Markets); Anthony Pratt (Executive Chairman, Visy Australia & Pratt Industries); Claire Peters (Managing Director, Woolworths Supermarkets); Clive Stiff (CEO Unilever, Australia and New Zealand) and Paul Klymenko (CEO Planet Ark Australia Foundation).