New trial could see Woolworths introduce plastic-free fruit and vegetables

A new plastic-free trial for supermarket fruit and vegetables could make its way into Woolworths stores across Australia.

On Monday, Countdown in New Zealand, a national supermarket chain part of the Woolworths Group, began a new ‘Unwrapped’ fruit and vegetable section at three stores where plastic packaging and single-use bags are replaced with paper and biodegradable alternatives.

The trial will take place for two-and-a-half months at the Orewa, Ponsonby and Manukau stores – on New Zealand’s North Island – and involves 65 products such as tomatoes, grapes and corn.

More than a tonne of plastic will be removed, however some products such as lettuce will still be wrapped in plastic until a suitable substitute is identified.

Woolworths could ditch plastic packaging in the future. Pictured is a woman picking up vegetables at a supermarket.
Woolworths could ditch plastic packaging in the future depending on a new trial in New Zealand. Source: AAP

When asked by Yahoo News Australia whether the trial would be implemented in Woolworths stores, a spokesperson said the trial’s results would influence how they progress the scheme.

“We're committed to reducing our environmental footprint across the Woolworths Group,” the spokesperson said.

“We'll closely monitor the results from the 10-week trial in our New Zealand supermarkets before determining our next steps with this initiative.”

The news will surely be music to the ears of those who have persistently called for the removal of excess plastic packaging from Australian stores.

“Getting rid of plastic is something I hear a lot about from customers so it’s awesome to be able to give them some real and tangible changes,” Countdown Ponsonby Store Manager Paul Maxwell said after Monday’s introduction.

Mr Maxwell said the feedback from Monday had been “great”.

A picture of a shopper placing fruit in a plastic bag.
The new trial in New Zealand will be testing produce wrapped in paper and biodegradable alternatives for 10 weeks. Source: Getty Images

“[Customer’s] feedback could have a long-lasting impact on how all New Zealanders shop in the future and help guide our next steps,” Kiri Hannifin – who is Countdown’s General Manager for Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability – said.

Announcing the move on their Facebook, Countdown was inundated with comments from users praising the move.

“I am so proud that as a company you are leading the way in saving the environment from these awful plastics,” one person said.

Others called for it to be rolled out across all stores straight away.

The move comes after the removal of single-use plastic bags from Woolworths and Coles stores in 2018.

In October, Woolworths announced it was also trialling paper bags to counter criticism the bag ban was failing.

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