Coles, Woolworths respond to major plastic change in Aldi stores

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have responded to in-store changes to plastic use being embraced across Europe and by competitor, Aldi.

The response comes after the environment ministry in France announced that it will ban plastic packaging for nearly all fruit and vegetables from January 2022.

Coles spoke to Yahoo News Australia about their own plans to reduce plastic packaging of fruit and vegetables and said that they are continually looking for alternative packaging options.

“Packaging, including plastic packaging, plays a key role in protecting products during transport, extending product life, keeping food safe and reducing food waste,” said a Coles spokesperson.

Women shop for loose fruit and vegetables in-store at Coles
Coles has successfully implemented several waste-reducing initiatives for fresh produce. Source: AAP/Getty

They added: “We will continue to look for options for packaging that is fit for purpose, but also helps keep produce fresh for customers, protects it and keeps it safe.”

Coles has successfully implemented several waste-reducing initiatives for fresh produce, including working with suppliers to transfer plastic liners in some loose avocado cartons to paper liners.

The new paper liners will remove almost four million un-recyclable plastic trays each year from Coles’ supply chain.

The retailer is also replacing black trays with clear plastic trays for sweet pointed capsicums, baby corn and parsnips, and transitioning from a black to a white plastic lid on their garlic paste – to ensure more than 1.2 million pieces, or 13 tonnes of plastic, can now be recycled in kerbside collection annually.

Inside Coles store showing deli with loose vegetables and fruit with staffers wearing masks. Source: Coles Group
Coles was recently voted the number one food retailer in Australia for sustainability. Source: Coles Group

Additionally, Coles is working with its suppliers to reduce the weight of plastic wrap. With Fresh Select, one of Coles’ pre-packaged lettuce suppliers, this has resulted in a reduction of approximately 16 tonnes of plastic each year.

These are some of the latest initiatives from Coles, who were recently voted the number one food retailer in Australia for sustainability by the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) – beating out competitors Woolworths and Aldi.

Woolworths removes 800 tonnes of plastic packaging from produce

Woolworths has been working hard to reduce their plastic packaging as part of their Sustainability Plan 2025, which aims to “create a better tomorrow” through their three pillars: people, planet and products.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that although the majority of their fruit and vegetables are sold loose, the supermarket is working hard to further reduce plastic packaging across their range.

“Over the last four years, we’ve removed more than 800 tonnes of plastic packaging from our fruit and vegetables,” said the spokesperson.

Woolworths shopper carries paper bag filled with fresh groceries in store. Source: Woolworths Group
Over the last four years, Woolworths have removed more than 800 tonnes of plastic packaging from their fresh produce. Source: Woolworths Group

“We’ve made improvements to a range of items, including swapping plastic trays for pulp and cardboard and using paper tags in place of plastic on vegetables,” they added.

Since 2018, Woolworths has removed more than 9,000 tonnes of plastic from over 550 products within their own brand and fresh product range, including produce, milk bottles, meat trays and bakery items.

However, some fresh produce within the Woolworths range are still packaged in plastic to extend their shelf life and reduce food waste. For example, a cucumber wrapped in plastic lasts three times longer than one that isn’t.

The spokesperson concluded: “We’ll continue to work with our suppliers to cut the amount of plastic used in packaging for a better tomorrow.”

Customers can expect to see more sustainable packaging measures as Woolworths works toward its 2025 sustainability goal, including 100 per cent of Own Brand packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023.

Other changes will include the use of half the amount of new plastic packaging by 2024 and an average of 60 per cent recycled material in all packaging by 2025.

How will Aldi Australia respond to the plastic packaging ban in France?

Meanwhile, Aldi recently announced that almost 2,000 tonnes of plastic packaging has been removed from shelves in the past year.

Director of Corporate Responsibility for Aldi Australia, Daniel Baker, told Yahoo News Australia that Aldi achieved a 10 per cent reduction of plastics across its fresh produce range in only one year.

“Removing plastics across our fresh produce range is a key priority and in 2020 we achieved a plastic reduction of 10 per cent in this area,” said Mr Baker.

“This was achieved through a number of packaging changes including the removal of plastic trays from some packaged fresh fruit like apples, pears, nectarines and peaches along the eastern seaboard and in SA,” he said.

Mr Baker explained that Aldi Australia is trialling home compostable strawberry punnets, while also continuing to investigate ways to roll this packaging out across more of their produce range.

“The next few years will see us continue to remove plastics from our range or replace it with sustainable alternatives and by 2025 all remaining packaging will be either recyclable, reusable or compostable.”

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