A veterinarian has blasted the controversial ‘Coles Little Shop’ campaign after discovering one of the plastic toys washed up on a beach in Bali.
In July this year Australian supermarket giant Coles announced their ‘Little Shop’ campaign, where customers received a small grocery-themed plastic toy with each $30 spent in store.
The move sparked controversy from conservationists around the country, who condemned the campaign due to the devastating effects plastic has on the environment.
And in an ironic twist, the ‘Little Shop’ campaign was announced at the same time Coles had committed to banning single-use plastic bags.
While the promotion ceased in September, wildlife and exotics veterinarian Stephanie Shaw said the aftershocks are clearly still being felt after she discovered a weathered Coles Little Shop Nutella toy washed up on the Indonesian island of Bali earlier this month.
The 40-year-old mum from Brisbane was visiting Bali for a conference, and said she was disgusted by the find and added that it is a prime example of the perpetual devastation that plastic has on the environment.
“We were having a little break and went down to the beach to get a drink. In the conference, we had only just been talking about marine conservation and plastic pollution,” Ms Shaw said.
“As we were walking along, we noticed the amount of rubbish and plastic on the shore. Then all of a sudden, I spotted this familiar Coles ‘little shop’ plastic Nutella toy laying in the sand.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was actually kind of fitting as Nutella itself is full of palm oil, which is devasting Indonesia’s rainforests and killing the orangutan population.
“That little piece of plastic could have easily landed in a sea turtle’s mouth or been swallowed by a bird.
“It’s just a terrible campaign. We should be straying away from plastics altogether. They are not thinking about the environment. They’re not recyclable at all.
“They should think about the consequences of where these toys end up. There are thousands of these little plastic toys out there now, and plastic will never break down.”
Ms Shaw said she could not confirm whether the Coles plastic toy had been brought over by tourists and then was discarded on the sand, or if it had travelled through the ocean from Australia and washed up on the Bali beach.
Jayne Paramor, deputy director of national environmentalist group Boomerang Alliance, described the supermarket promotion as the ‘Coles Little Shop of Horrors’ and said the plastic toys were a ‘travesty’.
“The vast majority of the set are plastic and certainly small enough to easily escape into the litter stream, making their way into the ocean,” Ms Paramor said.
“Given that they were being handed out at Coles supermarkets right across Australia, it is not unreasonable to assume that they may have made their way into the litter stream and arrived in Bali via ocean currents.
“The fact that Coles launched the Little Shop promotion at a time when the world is waking up to the detrimental impact that plastic is having on our environment highlights an enormous disregard for the impact that companies can have through such ill-considered marketing and promotional decisions, when their focus is purely driven by the business bottom line.”
Australian supermarket giant Woolworths have this week announced a sustainable rival action to the Coles Little Shop promotion by introducing a recyclable cardboard ‘Christmas Minis’ collection that shoppers will receive with each $30 spent on groceries in store.
Coles have been contacted for comment.