Woolworths calls for national approach to phasing out single-use plastic

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·4-min read

Supermarket giant Woolworths has expressed support for a national approach to banning single-use plastics.

It comes as Queensland became the latest state to ban single-use plastic items.

The Queensland parliament passed legislation on Wednesday to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and plates along with polystyrene foam food containers and cups from September 1.

Following the passage of laws on Wednesday, Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said there was overwhelming community support for banning such products which were too often discarded thoughtlessly.

"Plastic pollution is spoiling our streets and parks, escaping into our ocean and waterways and killing our iconic wildlife," she said in a statement.

"Half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once and then thrown away and that litter is destroying our environment."

Meaghan Scanlon MP speaks to media after the Queensland plastic ban.
Queensland's environment minister Meaghan Scanlon said plastic is destroying parks and wildlife. Source: AAP

It follows South Australia becoming the first state to ban single-use plastics which came into effect on March 1.

SA's legislation has also been designed to allow more items to be progressively added to the banned list, with polystyrene cups, bowls and plates to go by early 2022.

Woolworths, retailers call for national change

Woolworths and the National Retail Association (NRA) would like to see a uniform approach to single-use plastic bans across all states.

Alex Holt, Woolworths general manager, told the Australian Financial Review about “the importance of consistency” in reducing the reliance on plastic. The supermarket, along with the NRA, want governments to synchronise the timing of plastic bans.

“Reducing plastic in favour of more sustainable packaging is a priority for many of our customers and we have committed to make all of our own brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023,” Ms Holt said.

A shopper wearing a face mask leaving a Woolworths shop in Sydney.
Woolworths and other industry regulators are hoping all Australian states and territories can focus on a uniformed approach towards plastic. Source: AAP (file pic)

David Stout, the director of policy at the National Retail Association, told AFR “clear succinct information” is needed on what the guidelines are as manufacturers face an increasingly difficult task due to the different rules on plastic items in each state.

“With some of these products they’re writing contracts not for 10 minutes but for two to three years. So they have to be very clear about where the goalposts are,” Mr Stout said.

“When they have got things you can do in South Australia, you can’t do in Queensland and you can do it in Tasmania, but not the rest of Australia, what happens is they sit and wait.“

Mr Stout added various container deposit schemes are an issue and should be adopted as part of a wide-ranging national scheme.

Woolworths told Yahoo News Australia in a statement it stopped selling plastic straws in 2018 and has made moves following South Australia's changes.

"We’re working on a phased transition with our suppliers starting in South Australia where we’ve recently removed disposable plastic cutlery, cups, bowls and plates," a Woolworths spokesperson said.

"We’re also committed to a better tomorrow for our customers and their communities by reducing plastic in our own brand packaging and making it completely recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023."

A uniform approach to plastics needed

Plastic reduction has not been uniform across all Australian states. Victoria will ban all single-use plastics by 2023 while Tasmania has already banned takeaway plastics including straws, sandwich containers and plastic cutlery.

Federal minister for the environment, Sussan Ley, last week released a national plan to tackle plastic waste.

“We are attacking the plastic problem on five key fronts, through: legislation, investment, industry targets, research and development, and community education,” she said in a statement.

“We want to work with companies, bring consumers with us and call out those companies which make false environmental claims about their products.”

Grocery and plastic shopping bags seen in Brisbane.
Queensland banned single use plastic bags in 2018. Source: AAP

Ms Ley added Australians consume one million tonnes of single use plastic annually and “it is simply unsustainable”.

Under the plan, non-compostable plastic will be phased out by July 2022 and 80 per cent of supermarket products will display the Australasian Recycling Label by December 2023.

By 2025, the aim is for 100 per cent of packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

with AAP

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