Major Woolworths change that slashed 9000 tonnes of plastic

Woolworths says it saved 9000 tonnes of plastic from ending up in landfill after beginning its sustainability initiative in 2017.

The supermarket announced its achievement on Monday ahead of World Environment Day on Saturday, in line with its 2025 Sustainability Plan.

As part of the retailer's effort to transition packaging of its own brand's range to being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2023, more than 550 product lines have been changed.

Almost 800 tonnes of plastic has been removed from produce, about 600 tonnes removed from bakery products and about 400 tonnes has been removed annually from milk bottles since 2018.

The front of a Woolworths store.
Woolworths announced its sustainability achievements ahead of World Environment Day. Source: Getty

The sustainable packaging team has been working to either remove plastic packaging altogether, reduce the volume of plastic used, increase the use of recycled materials or make packaging 100 per cent recyclable.

Adrian Cullen, Woolworths Supermarkets head of sustainability, said the volume of waste that avoided landfill was equivalent to 16 A380 planes.

"More and more customers want to reduce their plastic use, and we’ve taken approximately 9,000 tonnes of plastic out of our packaging over the last four years to make it easier for them to shop more sustainably," he said.

"We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in going greener, but we know there’s plenty more to do and will continue to make changes to cut plastic from the products our customers put in their shopping baskets.

Woolworths worker holds tomato and meat tray.
Tomato and beef trays have been switched as part of the retailer's sustainability plan. Source: Woolworths

"Some plastic packaging is necessary to preserve food and minimise food waste, so where we can’t remove it, we’re challenging ourselves to reduce it. We’re also working to include more recycled plastic to minimise its impact."

Changes made include plastic trays used for tomatoes being replaced with pulp trays, plastic tags being replaced with paper, and paper trays being used for Woolworths’ Specially Selected and Grass Fed steaks.

Woolworths' plastic-packaging goal

By 2023, Woolworths expects that 100 per cent of its own brand's packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable, and by 2024, its virgin plastic packaging will be halved.

An average of 60 per cent recycled material is also expected to be used in packaging by 2025.

Additionally, Woolworths has replaced plastic cotton tip stems with paper and sugarcane stems on its own range, which is expected to save almost 500 million pieces of plastic annually.

It has also stopped selling plastic straws, removing 280 million straws since 2018, and stopped providing single-use plastic bags in 2018.

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