Supermarket's 'fantastic' idea to reduce fruit and veg plastic waste

As supermarkets across Australia commit to reducing plastic waste their European counterparts appear to be leading the way when it comes to reducing their environmental footprint.

Leading Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths have come under fire in recent years for their use of plastics when packaging fruit and vegetables as well as their promotions involving small plastic toys.

And while both have been vocal on their commitments to reducing plastics in store, there is a general consensus from shoppers that more can be done.

In a move that is likely to set a precedent moving forward, European discount supermarket Lidl has become the first UK store to offer reusable fruit and vegetable bags to its customers.

Pictured is a polyester reusable fruit and vegetable bag sold by Lidl.
Lidl has introduced reusable fruit and vegetable bags to reduce plastic waste in store. Source: Lidl

The company’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Georgina Hall, said Lidl is “strongly committed to finding ways to reduce our plastic waste” and this was the latest move in doing so.

The bags, which Ms Hall said are “designed to give customers a sustainable choice and reduce plastic use and waste in the long term,” are available to purchase for 69p (A$1.25) for two.

Announcing the decision on Facebook, Lidl’s move was hailed by shoppers.

“Fantastic idea,” one person remarked.

“This is so much cheaper than reusable bags you buy online and you are making it the norm, not just for ‘eco warriors’ who take the time to research and buy them,” another person said.

Pictured is Woolworths fruit packaged in plastic bags in store.
Woolworths fruit packaged in plastic bags. Source: Facebook

While many welcomed the idea, there was some concern that the polyester bags would only contribute to plastic waste.

UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has also launched a trial of similar bags at two of its stores. Their bags on offer are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

Coles and Woolworths point to other initiatives

Following the removal of single-use shopping bags from Coles and Woolworths stores in 2018, the phasing out of plastic fruit and vegetable bags from stores is considered a natural next step.

However both Coles and Woolworths failed to answer whether they’d consider implementing reusable fruit and veg bags in store when asked by Yahoo News Australia.

Instead the supermarkets offered information on their ongoing commitment to reducing plastic waste.

“Coles wants to be recognised for being Australia’s most sustainable supermarket and has released a range of initiatives and commitments to drive more sustainable operations, to reduce our impact on the planet and to help our customers and team members lead healthy lives,” a Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

A picture of Coles' in-store REDcycle bin. Source: Supplied
Coles' in-store recycling. Source: Supplied

The spokesperson said in some instances, packaging was needed for food standards and longevity.

However they noted such plastics used can be recycled in store nationally through their REDcycle scheme, which also recycles plastic bags.

The spokesperson said the scheme saw 200 million plastic items avoid landfill in the last financial year.

A Woolworths spokesperson also outlined the company’s ongoing plan for plastic reduction to Yahoo News Australia.

“We understand many of our customers want us to reduce plastic in fruit and vegetables and we’re working to do just that,” the spokesperson said.

They said Woolworths had removed 500 tonnes of “unnecessary” plastic packaging used for produce and bakery products.

This included removing plastic packaging from organic spring onions, celery bunches, kale and organic bananas.

The spokesperson said they too have rolled out a REDcycle scheme for soft plastics to be returned in store, while they had repurposed more than 500 tonnes of soft plastics into items such as outdoor furniture and benches for community groups and stores.

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