A Coles customer was “very disappointed” after loose produce from her online order came delivered individually wrapped in plastic bags.
The woman, who ordered from South Australia’s Gawler store, shared a photo of four bags that had been used to wrap up six bananas to the supermarket’s Facebook page on Wednesday.
She added that three cucumbers had also arrived wrapped in two separate bags, which she said was difficult to understand “when realistically they didn’t even really need plastic in the first place”.
“I really don’t understand why this even happens. The nice delivery driver says it happens all the time,” she wrote in her post.
In response to the woman’s complaint, a Coles employee said the method was designed to “protect the product’s freshness and to ensure food safety from farm to home”.
They claimed the company made “every effort to prioritise the selling of loose fruit and vegetables to minimise packaging as much as possible”.
The woman disagreed however, claiming the delivery driver told her the practice was common in online delivery orders.
“The whole process is like a treasure hunt,” she said.
A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia if customers wanted to recycle soft plastics they could give it back to their delivery driver.
“We understand the importance of appropriate packaging in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste. Coles Online customers can give their soft plastics to their customer service agent who will return it for recycling through REDcycle.
“In conjunction with REDcycle, Coles offers a soft plastic recycling program in all Coles supermarkets nationally. In 2018 we were the first major Australian supermarket to roll out the program to all stores.”
They added the customer had been contacted for “further details” on the matter.
Growing plastic problem
The woman’s complaint comes amid growing frustration with major the plastic packaging being used in-store at major retailers across the country.
Anger was recently directed at Woolworths by shoppers cranky with its packaging of “mini” versions of fruit inside a store in Melbourne.
Customers expressed their disgust at dozens of plastic packets of pears, bananas, apples and mandarins displayed on a table in the supermarket’s produce section.
Woolworths shoppers were also outraged at plastic packaging being used to wrap cloves of garlic which, similar to bananas, come with their own natural wrapping.
Is the single-use plastic bag ban a waste of time?
Tensions have flared surrounding reusable plastic bags available for 15 cents at both Coles and Woolworths since their respective bans on single-use plastic bags were introduced in 2018.
The initiative was designed so shoppers could cut back on their plastic bag consumption, but has ultimately resulted in households hoarding mass collections of reusable bags beneath their kitchen sink.
The University of Melbourne’s behaviour change and environmental sustainability expert Geoffrey Binder told Yahoo News Australia it was likely people’s use of plastic bags had remained, for the most part, unchanged since the single-use plastic bag ban.
“I think that we’ll find that certainly when people go shopping there are people who are now taking bags to the supermarket, but does that mean there has been a net decrease in plastic bag use? Probably not,” Mr Binder said.
The issue is bigger than a bag problem
Dr Binder said supermarkets should be helping consumers make more environmentally conscious decisions, and simply removing single-use plastic bags was not achieving this.
“A ban can be useful but the critical question is, what follows? And what strategies are they giving people so their behaviours can transition to something more environmentally sustainable?,” he said.
“The problem is when we look to change behaviours on the basis of a causal model, when we look to change behaviour by simply banning something, then it’s going to fail.”
Sending mixed messages
Consumers have long blasted supermarkets for sending mixed messages about their approach to sustainability and conservation of the environment.
This was highlighted by a customer who photographed a Woolworths sign positioned on a stall of plastic-wrapped produce that encouraged shoppers to “help us help the environment” by remembering to bring use reusable bags.
Many shoppers were annoyed at the blatant hypocrisy, but the supermarket said produce could be kept fresher if it was wrapped.
“Packaging protects the quality and extends the shelf life of fruit and vegetables as they’re transported from the farm, to the store and to our customers,” the supermarket hit back.
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