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Major change coming to Coles stores from July 1

Customers will no longer be able to buy single-use plastic tableware at Coles from Thursday as the supermarket unveils its Sustainability Strategy.

Back in February this year, Coles announced the tableware would be stripped from shelves across more than 2500 Coles Supermarkets, Coles Express outlets and Coles Liquor stores.

The culled items include single-use plastic cups, plates, bowls, straws and cutlery.

July 1 will mark the completion of the phase-out. But stores in South Australia phased out single-use plastic tableware in March to align with state law.

Shoppers will be given the option for an alternative, a range of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified tableware and reusable options.

A Coles  supermarket is seen in Brisbane on February 17, 2021.
Coles has reinforced its commitment to sustainability by releasing its Sustainability Strategy in full. Source: AAP (AAPIMAGE)

The move to eliminate the tableware will divert 1.5 million kilograms of single-use plastic every year, Coles said in a press release back in February.

The move was praised by Federal Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley and the chairperson of Clean Up Australia, Pip Kiernan.

"It’s heartening to see Coles making impactful changes to reduce waste to landfill and providing customers with options that are kinder on the planet,” she said.

“These items are not recyclable, they are designed to be used once and discarded, going to landfill and many ending up in our environment as litter.

"Last year our volunteers reported that over half of all items they collected were plastic or contained plastic."

A customer seen in the aisle of the supermarket with a Coles shopping basket.
From July 1, Coles will no longer be stocking single-use plastic tableware. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Greenpeace CEO praises Coles's 'huge' decision

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia on Wednesday, Greenpeace CEO David Ritter said it was only fair to give credit where credit was due, praising the significance of Coles's strategy.

He said Coles pledging to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy would not only make a decent dent in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, but could help change the way people think about power generation.

"You've got a company, a brand, that is as trusted as Coles effectively saying they are not going to source their electricity from dirty sources of coal and gas anymore, that renewables, clean, reliable, popular and the way of the future," he said.

"That decision is also huge along with the actual physical chain to make through the reduction in emissions.

"We've already seen really good concrete steps to make good on the announcement with power purchasing agreements in place that means, driving investment in renewables, they're driving new jobs in renewables and that's all really good."

He also said it was great to see Coles was taking strides to reduce plastic waste, though he said Greenpeace would like to see more being done faster.

"We'd like to see more and faster on single-use products, and on plastic waste and other packagings," he said.

"That's part of Greenpeace's job in this, we will always give credit where credit's due, but these are major problems and we need to see the highest level of ambition possible."

Mr Ritter said he hoped customers, employees and stakeholders saw changes like the ones at Coles being made, and call upon other big companies to make significant changes.

He added Coles was matching customer expectation by having a sustainability plan in place.

"People want to see this kind of commitment... and no one likes to be at the beach and see single-use plastic, or any plastic waste, washed up on the shoreline," he said.

Coles unveils sustainability report

Coles' Sustainability Strategy consists of two pillars — 'Together to Zero' and 'Better Together' – each outlining several commitments.

"Together to Zero sets our ambition to reduce our impact on the environment," the strategy says.

"Better Together recognises that when we work together, we can make a real difference to our team, our suppliers, our customers and to the communities in which we live and work."

The strategy aligns with nine of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) — zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water and life on land.

Signs adorn a barrier near the checkout of the Coles supermarket in the Elsternwick suburb of Melbourne.
By 2025, Coles wants all its own brand packaging to be 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"Under our important new sustainability pillars – Together to Zero and Better Together – we have set our aspirations and the pathway to meet the many challenges and opportunities we face," Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said in a press release.

"Our strategy is focussed on acting together now for generations of Australians ahead. We understand our responsibility to minimise our environmental footprint and to show leadership in protecting our planet and climate."

The Environment Policy outlined in Coles's 'Together to Zero Waste' section acknowledged the role the supermarket could play in reducing food waste and packaging.

Coles Group is committed to driving the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

By 2025, or earlier, Coles Brand products deemed "problematic" and "unnecessary" single-use plastic packaging will be phased out.

A customer unloads items from his shopping cart at a checkout counter in a Coles supermarket.
Greenpeace CEO David Ritter hopes customers will encourage other companies to introduce more sustainable practices. Source: Bloomberg via Getty Images (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Coles committed to ensuring all Coles Brand packaging was 100 per recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

By 2050, Coles aims to achieve net zero emissions.

It's also aiming to source 100 per cent renewable electricity by the end of the 2025 financial year, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its value chain.

"We have landmark renewable electricity agreements with Lal Lal Windfarms, CleanCo, ENGIE and Neoen," Mr Cain said.

"These combined renewable electricity agreements provide enough to power more than 750 average sized supermarket."

The supermarket giant also continues to focus on reducing food waste, with unsold, edible food being donated to organisations like SecondBite and Foodbank.

'Better Together' has an emphasis on fostering an open and welcoming culture, and having all team members feel as though they can belong.

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