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Ironic detail in 'shocking' Woolworths produce photo

While pointing to 'reducing waste' many have picked up on what they say is hypocrisy from the supermarket.

Woolworths is facing increased pressure from frustrated shoppers over the “shocking” amount of plastic used to package fresh produce, while at the same time charging customers for “environmentally-friendly” bags “in a bid to reduce waste”.

While many Aussies were pleased to hear that both our major supermarkets had taken steps to reduce the amount of plastic used in its day-to-day operations, including the phase-out of reusable plastic bags, many have pointed to what they say is serious hypocrisy from the retailers.

One recent photo under the spotlight shows packs of apples smothered in plastic. Next to the fruit is a sign that reads: "Great for reducing waste."

The produce section at a Woolies store showing plastic covered fruit.
Woolworths customers have continued to question the need to use plastic on pieces of fruit and vegetables. Source: Reddit.

'Too much ends up in landfill'

The photo was shared to Reddit by a customer who said they were "shocked to see the amount of plastic they used for packaging".

"What's the point of packing five apples or mandarin as a kids pack? Parents shopping for kids know how to shop for them. Too much in landfill. Not sustainable business practice by Woolies.”

It’s the latest in a string of complaints against the retailer over the use of plastic on fruit and veg — which people have long argued could be left loose or bundled in recycled paper — but particularly in the wake of a number of stores charging money for produce bags, the practice has been met with anger.

The produce section at a Woolies store showing plastic covered fruit.
Many have argued fruit and veg can be left loose, or packaged using more sustainable options. Source: Reddit.

One user pointed to the irony of the sign next to the produce, which instead meant to refer to the supermarket's "odd-looking" produce section.

Shoppers urged to buy produce loose

However some people said it was in fact shoppers who were to blame for the over-use of plastic.

"Stop buying the sh**t that’s prepackaged. Woolworths have pretty much everything available loose, they just like to profit from everyone’s laziness," one person said.

"I find it ridiculous that people buy limp prepackaged spinach, when there is a huge box of fresh loose spinach that you can just put into a reusable bag and buy for a cheaper price."

One person said it was a tactic to sell you a certain amount of fruit or the individual ones you want.

Earlier this year, Woolworths began its phase-out of reusable plastic bags in Australia's two most populous states, completing their nationwide removal.

Just days ago it was announced that Woolworths shoppers at a select number of stores in Western Australia would be forced to fork out $1.50 for produce bags if they've forgotten to bring their own, in a new trial aimed at preparing the supermarket for the next phase of the state's strict new plastic laws coming into effect next year.

Woolworths responds

A Woolies spokeswoman said that most of its fresh produce is already sold individually.

“The majority of our fruit and veg is sold loose and we’re working to reduce unnecessary packaging across our range where we can," the spokeswoman said

“In recent years, we’ve removed more than 800 tonnes of plastic from our fruit and veg range and we plan to keep that momentum as we continue to reduce plastic and increase our use of recycled content.

“Packaging is an important balancing act to reduce plastic without compromising shelf life, which can lead to more food waste in our store or in customers’ homes. For example, a continental cucumber wrapped in plastic lasts three times longer than one that isn’t."

The spokeswoman said Woolworths is "proud to have led the phase out of reusable soft plastic bags" at supermarket checkouts with the "nationwide removal of our 15-cent plastic bags earlier this year".

“We know there’s still more to be done and we look forward to sharing our progress with customers," she said.

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