With growing scrutiny around the use of plastic packaging in stores, Coles has revealed significant new plans to minimise waste levels and improve its environmental footprint.
It comes amid growing calls on social media and from environmental groups for the supermarket giants – Coles, Woolworths and ALDI – to cut down their use of excessive packaging on products like wrapped bananas, sweet potatoes and cucumbers.
Coles has said it will introduce new initiatives as part of a wide-ranging series of commitments to reduce food waste, landfill and plastic packaging over the next four years.
This includes removing double plastic packaging for fruit and selling bunched vegetables like kale and silver beet without plastic.
Coles has also pledged to halve food waste across its supermarkets and to make all packaging of Coles-branded products recyclable by 2020, five years ahead of the federal government’s timetable.
By 2022, Coles said it would divert 90 per cent of all supermarket waste including food, cardboard and plastic away from landfills.
Other commitments include replacing packaging for meat and poultry products and using packaging made from recycled and renewable materials. Additionally, Coles will replace existing single-use fresh produce bags with bags that have 30 per cent recycled content as well as give customers the option to recycle all of their soft plastic at every Coles supermarket.
Managing Director, John Durkan, said in a statement: “We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste.
“Landfill is a big issue in terms of putting stuff back into the ground that isn’t going to biodegrade and doesn’t end up harming us eventually.
“We are delighted to be the only Australian supermarket to sell own brand water bottles that are both 100 per cent recyclable and 100 per cent made from recycled materials.
“Now we are the first major food retailer in Australia to announce a target to make all of our own brand packaging recyclable by 2020, ahead of the federal government’s target of 2025.”
Along with Woolworths, Coles will be banning single-use plastic carrier bags from all stores across the country by June 20.
— Frank Chung (@franks_chung) June 4, 2018
Converting food waste into meals
Other plans for Coles include converting food waste into meals by donating the food to rescue programs such as SecondBite.
The move will include donating the equivalent of 100 million meals in surplus food to people in need by 2020 through the retribution of food products since it began doing this in 2011.
“By the end of this year we will also connect every Coles store to the vital food rescue program, SecondBite, meaning surplus edible food from every Coles supermarket will be redistributed to people in need. By connecting an additional 130 supermarkets to SecondBite this year, we will also be further diverting food waste from landfill,” Mr Durkan said.
“By 2020, we want to provide the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need. Since 2011, we’ve donated around 72 million meals to SecondBite and Foodbank so we’ve still got 28 million meals to go. Coles has also pledged to label all Coles Brand products with recycling information to help customers know how and where to dispose of their waste.”