Calls for Coles, Woolworths to try new plastic bag 'solution'

A plant-based packaging brand is offering a solution to Australian supermarkets' plastic bag problem with their line of dissolvable and compostable bags.

The innovative green packaging brand, TeloBag, manufactures their plant-based bags from cassava, which is a root vegetable rich in starch that is native to South America. It is similar to a sweet potato or a yam.

Each of TeloBag’s green bags are dissolvable in water, compostable in 180 days, use environmentally-friendly ink and feature a 100 per cent cassava starch base that produces no waste.

On Monday @TeloBag shared a video to TikTok where they introduced themselves to Australian supermarket heavy hitters Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi.

Screenshot of plant based bag brand Telobag video on TikTok. Source: TikTok/@TeloBag
Plant-based bag brand TeloBag shared a video to TikTok where they introduced themselves to Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi. Source: TikTok/@TeloBag

“We’re new in Australia. Dear Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, we are so happy to be given a chance to introduce our green products to you,” said the voiceover in the TikTok.

In the 13-second video, you can see a shopper filling several TeloBag produce bags with fresh vegetables, including mushrooms, avocados and lettuce.

The video was posted in response to a TikTok user, asking if they had reached out to major supermarkets, and has since amassed over 150,000 views, 11,100 likes, and hundreds of comments from excited shoppers.

“Brilliant innovation! Thank you for thinking of our future,” wrote one commentator.

“Love this innovation. I hope we can get it in supermarkets too,” wrote another.

While a supermarket staffer said: “The amount of bags we go through in the deli, we need this.”

However, not everyone was so convinced by the dissolvable bags, with some light-heartedly questioning how they would cope in the rain.

“Omg imagine you’re carrying your groceries in the rain and your bags just fall apart,” commented one user.

“All fun and games until you have to take the groceries inside while it’s raining,” commented another.

Woolworths to trial compostable alternatives

A spokesperson for Woolworths told Yahoo News Australia that the supermarket is committed to making 100 per cent of its Own Brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023.

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce plastic to landfill, and are interested in the role compostable materials like this can play in our stores,” said the spokesperson.

Woolworths launched its trial of compostable bags in South Australian supermarkets in May, as a way to drive down the impact of plastic on the environment.

“South Australia has significantly higher access to council-provided composting than other states, which makes it a great place to test compostable alternatives,” they added.

“We are currently considering opportunities to trial a compostable produce bag in select stores in South Australia to gather feedback from our customers.”

Woolworths produce bags in front of an apple display. Source: Facebook
Woolworths began trialling compostable bags in the produce section of stores across South Australia in May. Source: Facebook

Woolworths has already taken three billion plastic bags out of annual circulation since banning single-use plastic bags in 2018.

The supermarket giant offers reusable nylon produce bags at Metros and selected Woolworths stores nationally for purchase in a pack of three.

“We have a wide range of initiatives to reduce plastic to landfill and will continue to grow greener across our stores nationwide as we work towards a better tomorrow.”

Coles say plant-based bags don't adhere to APCO guidelines

Meanwhile, a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that the supermarket chooses the most appropriate and lowest impact materials for their shopping carry bags to reduce their environmental impact.

"When reviewing different packaging formats, we refer to APCO’s Considerations for Compostable Packaging Guidelines," the spokesperson said.

"Plant-based bags may be biodegradable or compostable but require specific conditions in order to break down, which are not currently readily accessible here in Australia.

"When these conditions are not met, they can cause litter and other pollution issues.

"These materials are also not recyclable through kerbside recycling streams or REDcycle, and can contaminate those collection streams."

However, the spokesperson noted that Coles' current fresh produce bags contain 30 per cent recycled plastic, and are recyclable through REDcycle collection program, which is available at all Coles stores.

Coles also introduced reusable fresh produce bags for their customers to purchase in select stores.

Aldi responds to TikTok bag challenge

When asked by Yahoo News Australia to respond to the TikTok video about the new bags, an Aldi spokesperson said the German supermarket giant has a "number of sustainability initiatives in action to reduce our impact on the environment".

"These include a commitment to reduce the amount of plastic and packaging across our own-label range by a quarter by 2025," the spokesperson said.

"We are always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to do this.

"Since our entry into the market, we have led the way on initiatives such as never providing free-of-charge plastic carrier bags to customers, saving an estimated 7.7 billion plastic bags from entering the environment.

"Last year, we also took the action of removing plastic bags from our banana stands across stores."

Coles and Woolworths vow to cut plastic waste by 2025

In May, Coles and Woolworths took another significant step to reduce plastic waste in their stores across the nation.

The supermarket giants were among a raft of companies in Australia to sign up to the Plastic Pact, which sees them commit to making all their plastics recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Both supermarkets have faced the wrath of customers in recent years who have questioned their commitment to greener alternatives, despite their sustainability initiatives and claims of reduced plastic output.

Coles and Woolworths scrapped the single use plastic bag three years ago, saving a combined total of 5.9 billion bags from landfill in the first year after the ban.

Coles also removed single-use plastic tableware from its shelves back in June and began trialling recyclable cardboard bread tags on their Coles Own Brand bread earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Woolworths recently reached an environmental milestone, saving the equivalent to the annual amount of rubbish which could be generated by 320,000 homes from landfill in this past year.

“The steps we take to become a more sustainable business today will create a better tomorrow for generations to come,” Woolworths Group CEO, Brad Banducci said.

“It’s no longer enough to just reduce our impact on the planet. Instead, we’re turning to how we can use our scale for good and create positive change for our planet, and in turn, our communities.”

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