Why major supermarkets don't allow customers to bring reusable containers

Customers are “shocked and appalled” that supermarkets won’t allow them to use their own reusable containers in the deli sections – and are taking their business to local stores.

The environmentally-minded customers have brought their own containers to deli sections, in an effort to reduce waste.

However, despite a push to cut down on waste which has included ditching plastic bags, supermarkets have rejected customers’ BYO packaging citing food safety concerns.

“I was very disappointed when armed with my reusable container, I was knocked back by the (very apologetic) deli manager at Coles in Southland recently,” a Facebook user posted on Coles’ page.

“When I asked the store manager as to why, I was told that due to hygiene reason[s], company policy did not allow for this.

Coles and Woolies refuse to let customers bring their own containers to the deli section. Source: Getty Images

“I am shocked and appalled just how much plastic waste is generated in your store daily.

“I have taken my business to a local shop that happily allows me to use my own tongs, container and reusable plastic bags.”

There is a growing movement for reusable packaging in the fresh food section, as supermarkets have been flooded with queries about deli packaging.

“Would love it if we could bring our own clean reusable containers to the deli counter too, or just have products weighed and wrapped in paper,” one Facebook user posted to the Woolworths page.

“Hello Woolies! Do your delis accept customers bringing their own reusable containers in to avoid disposable packaging?” another user posted.

Woolies also cites accurate weighing concerns as a reason for rejecting reusable plastic containers from the deli section. Source: Getty Images

“Any plans to change your store policy about not accepting reusable containers at the deli counter?” a user asked.

However, Woolworths and Coles stand firm in their rejection of personal reusable containers.

“This is not something we can offer due to food safety and operational reasons,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

Woolworths also noted that when customers bring in their own containers, the products may not be weighed accurately, due to the weight of the container.

“We continue to work hard on the reduction of unnecessary plastics right across our stores,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.

“This includes taking 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags out of circulation every year, and trials to remove plastic packaging from 80 fruit and vegetable lines over the next year.”

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo7 that food safety concerns drive their decision to reject customers’ own containers.

“Coles does not allow customers to bring in their own containers to use as it poses a health and safety risk,” a Coles spokesperson said.

Woolies and Coles cite food safety and accurate weighing as reasons for preventing customers from bringing reusable plastic containers to their deli sections. Source: Getty Images

“It also makes it very difficult for us to do a thorough investigation if a customer becomes ill and we are unsure where the container used came from.”

Coles has no plans to introduce biodegradable plastic bags to the deli section.

“Biodegradable bags are also not suited to recycling and not typically able to be re-used,” the spokesperson said.

“The Queensland and Victorian governments do not allow biodegradable, compostable or degradable bags as part of their single-use bag legislation.”

However, Coles stated that it “welcomes innovation in this space” and is willing to “explore compostable options that are fit-for-purpose and backed by credible, independent scientific evidence”.

“Coles is actively working to reduce waste and landfill through a variety of initiatives, such as removing single use plastic bags from all Coles supermarkets on July 1,” a Coles spokesperson said.