Coles trials innovative program to reduce plastic waste

Coles is trialling its “bring your own container” program in downtown Melbourne in its latest bid to reduce plastic waste.

The trial, which will take place at the Coles Local store in Fitzroy from next week, will apply to certain dry products.

“To help reduce plastic packaging, Coles Local is trialling a new ‘bring your own’ container system at our Fitzroy store in Melbourne for select dry scoop and weigh products,” a Coles spokesman said.

How does the program work?

Coles scrapped single-use plastic bags back in 2018, so the BYO container program seems like the natural next step.

A Coles bulk food display.
Coles has introduced a new bring your own container scheme in a Melbourne store. Source: Coles

The new program will work the same as the reusable bag scheme, except shoppers will only fill their containers with certain dry foods such as seeds, nuts and other dry snacks.

Coles is also trying to expand the program to other products.

The supermarket giant is already offering refill laundry soaps at a store in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, and hygiene products at a store in Chatswood, Sydney.

A woman puts frozen fruit into a container.
The new scheme is designed to reduce plastic waste from excessive packaging. Source: Coles

“We have partnered with Unilever on a refill station for laundry soaps at our Melbourne Moonee Ponds store, and with 'ecostore' at Chatswood in Sydney, to offer a range of refillable conditioners, body washes, and laundry liquids,” the Coles spokesman said.

Coles to cut plastic waste by 2025

Coles recently joined a pact, alongside Aldi and Woolworths, to drastically reduce the amount of plastic used in Australian supermarkets.

Known as the Plastics Pact, Coles pledged to eliminate “problematic packaging” by making all of their plastics recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Coles chief executive Greg Davis said the pact will help fulfil Coles’ Together to Zero sustainability strategy, which aims to deliver zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and its long-term ambition toward zero waste and zero hunger.

A person pours coffee into a container.
Shoppers will be able to pour dry items, including coffee into their own containers. Source: Coles

“As one of Australia’s largest retailers, Coles understands the importance of working collaboratively to find a more sustainable future for plastic packaging,” said Mr Davis.

“We have an ambition to be Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, working with our suppliers, customers and other stakeholders towards zero waste."

Coles slammed for excessive plastic use

Despite this pledge, Coles recently came under fire for the ‘excessive packaging’ of their roasted vegetables.

A customer took to Twitter to suggest that the supermarket was, in fact, doing the opposite of what they had vowed to do.

The shopper, Kevin Jon Heller, shared an image of multiple packs of roasted vegetables in airtight, plastic packaging.

"It appears that Coles is doing everything it can to destroy the planet," he wrote.

Coles 'making every effort to prioritise selling loose fruit and veg'

Coles responded online, stating: "We are making every effort to prioritise the selling of loose fruit and vegetables to minimise packaging as much as possible.”

"However, there are times when packaging is required to protect the product’s freshness and to ensure food safety from farm to home."

Coles trolleys
Coles says its working to sell as many vegetables as possible free from packaging. Source: AAP

This isn’t the first time Coles has faced the wrath of customers who criticise their irresponsible use of plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables.

Woolworths is also working hard to improve their sustainability credentials, recently introducing a trial of a new type of produce bags, which enables customers to reuse the bags for food scraps and place in their green bins when they’re done.

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