Woolworths announces dramatic change to popular summer item

Woolworths has removed all single-use plastic picnicware from sale in stores nationwide in a bid to eliminate approximately 2.1 million kilograms of plastic each year.

The latest green initiative by Woolworths will see the removal of plastic cutlery, bowls, plates and cups from their shelves to cut plastic waste for a better tomorrow.

Woolies shoppers will now be able to choose from an extended range of more sustainable picnicware, including bowls and plates made from sugarcane pulp, wooden cutlery and paper cups and plates.

Woolworths new sustainable picnicware range of cups, straws and bowls on table.
Woolworths has removed single-use plastic picnicware nationwide in a bid to reduce plastic waste. Source: Woolworths Group

Meanwhile, all paper and wooden products within the range are FSC certified, meaning they are sustainably harvested from forests.

The sustainable picnicware line comes just in time for the holiday season, with more than 50 products and a range of designs to suit any kids’ party, theme or occasion.

James Hepworth, Woolworths Supermarkets Commercial Director for Everyday Needs, said the supermarket is committed to growing greener for their customers and local communities.

“Removing single-use plastic cutlery and other picnicware will not only cut plastic in landfill, but is the right thing to do for the health of our oceans and waterways where these items can unfortunately end up,” said Mr Hepworth.

Woolworths' new sustainable picnicware range sits on shelves in-store.
Woolworths' new sustainable picnicware range is made from materials, like sugarcane pulp, bamboo, wood and paper. Source: Woolworths Group

According to the WWF Report 2020, around 130,000 tonnes of plastic waste leaks into the marine environment every year in Australia – which is a large part of why Woolworths is removing plastics from their shelves.

Mr Hepworth added: “Along with this change, we’re offering customers an extended picnic range of more sustainable options made from materials like sugarcane pulp, bamboo, wood and paper.”

“We thank our customers for their support as together we make this change today, for a better tomorrow.”

Woolworths make great strides to cut down on single-use plastic use

Woolworths has made great strides to cut down on single-use plastics in recent years across their stores nationwide.

In 2018, Woolworths was the first Australian supermarket to stop selling single-use plastic shopping bags and straws in-stores nationwide, removing over 9 billion single-use plastic shopping bags and 280 million straws from circulation.

Woolworths also replaced all plastic cotton tip stems with paper and sugarcane stems across the range, which is expected to save almost 500 million pieces of plastic annually.

Additionally, Woolworths is working across its entire operations to reduce plastic and increase the sustainability of all of their products.

Woolworths has already improved the packaging on more than 550 of its own brand and fresh products, removing thousands of tonnes of plastic from circulation for items such as milk bottles, meat trays, produce packaging, and bakery containers.

The retailer has committed to making 100 per cent of its own brand packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by the end of 2023.

Single-use plastics to be banned in NSW

Woolworths’ move to remove single-use plastics in stores comes ahead of the New South Wales government’s plan to phase out single-use plastic bags, straws and cutlery within the year.

Lightweight plastic bags will be banned from June 2022, while plastic straws, cutlery, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be outlawed from November.

Microbeads will also be phased out of products such as hand wash, make-up, styrofoam cups, plates and containers by November of next year.

Environment Minister Matt Kean on Tuesday said the legislation was a "game changer" in the state's fight against plastic waste.

Single use plastic food containers sit inside single use plastic bags.
The NSW government plans to phase out single-use plastic bags, straws and cutlery within the year. Source: AAP

"Only 10 per cent of plastics in NSW are recycled, with the rest ending up in landfill, or worse, littering our streets, dumped in our parks and washing up in our waterways," Mr Kean said.

"This legislation is expected to stop 2.7 billion single-use items from ending up in our natural environment and waterways over the next 20 years."

Mr Kean confirmed businesses will be supported in making the transition and exemptions will apply for community members who require single-use plastics for disability or health needs.

The government's broader plastics action plan, which also includes cleaning up plastic pollution and investigating alternatives, will cost $356 million over five years.

Woolies trials major in-store plastics change: 'Huge impact'

Last week, Woolworths announced a new in-store BYO container initiative as part of their company-wide operation to reduce plastic waste.

The green initiative invites customers to bring their own reusable containers from home in-store, so they can be used at the deli, meat, and seafood counters.

Woolies shoppers can fill their container with any meat, deli, or seafood item, provided it is sold by weight. However, foods sold by volume, such as salads, are not eligible for BYO containers.

Following a successful trial at the Crows Nest store in NSW, the initiative is now being trialled in all Tasmanian stores and the West End store in Queensland.

Woolworths worker hands a customer a plastic container of olives.
Single-use and glass containers are not a part of the BYO initiative at this stage. Source: Dallas Kilponen/Woolworths

Woolworths Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Alex Holt, has predicted the small in-store change will have a huge impact.

“The potential impact of a small change like this is huge. If every customer brought their own deli container, an average store could save up to 10,000 plastic containers a year,” said Ms Holt.

“We’re always looking for new ways to grow greener and the option to bring your own containers to the deli is something our customers have been asking for,” she added.

“Across the community, we’re increasingly adding reusable packaging to our regular routines – whether it be reusable cups for our morning coffee or bringing our own bags to the supermarket.

For those who would like to partake in the plastic-saving initiative, shoppers can simply let a Woolworths team member know they have brought their own container at the deli, meat or seafood counter.

However, BYO containers must have a sealable lid, and be in good, clean condition.

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