Food & Wine

ALDI, Coles and Woolies under the microscope for too much plastic packaging

ALDI, Coles and Woolies under the microscope for too much plastic packaging

As shoppers are becoming more aware of how much plastic they use in their daily lives, they’re slowly turning their attention to the supermarkets and their overuse of plastic.

This week is National Recycling Week and many shoppers are voicing their opinions about the amount of single-use plastic that is used by supermarkets and the impact it can have on the environment.

Woolworths recently has items such as apples, bananas, mandarins and pears for sale that come in pre-packaged plastic.

However, there were examples of excessive packaging, including varieties of fruit packaged together in plastic as well as two organic capsicums wrapped in plastic.

Woolworths has said that it has taken initiative to reduce plastic.

“We understand many of our customers want us to reduce plastic packaging in our stores and we’re working hard to do just that,” a Woolworths spokesperson said to news.com.au.

“Over the last two years, we have removed around 1000 tonnes of plastic from our fruit and vegetables and bakery ranges.”

Woolworths has removed plastic wrapping from tomatoes, organic bananas, spring onions, celery bunches and kale.

Woolworths has also introduced a new initiative where customers are able to return soft plastics to the store, so they were able to be recycled.

“We have also rolled out REDcycle facilities in all our stores, which allows customers to return soft plastics, including fruit and veg packaging, to our stores to be recycled,” the spokesperson said.

“Nationally, we’ve now repurposed more than 900 tonnes of soft plastics into useful items like outdoor furniture and benches for community groups and stores with REDcycle.”

Coles also has a similar set up to Woolworths, with a mixture of unpackaged produce and fresh items that are wrapped in plastic.

Some items included a few heads of broccoli inside a plastic bag, plastic boxes of garlic cloves and separate plastic boxes of whole garlic.

Coles noted that many of its supplier’s package produce differently so it’s not confused with non-organic products.

“We understand the importance of appropriate packaging in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste,” the spokesperson said.

“At the same time, Coles is committed to making our packaging more sustainable.”

Coles also noted that it was the first supermarket to offer REDcycle in its stores around the country.

“Since the program began in 2011, Coles has diverted 715 million pieces of plastic from landfill across Australia, including more than 200 million pieces in FY19 alone,” the spokesperson said,

“Coles is also actively working with our suppliers on more sustainable and recyclable forms of packaging across all products.

“Coles is a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant, which sets sustainable packaging guidelines and we also have our own Sustainable Packaging Policy.”

ALDI doesn’t have the same range of fresh produce that Coles and Woolworths offer, but there’s still a significant amount of plastic-packaged produce.

This includes capsicums wrapped in plastic as well as a single head of iceberg lettuce on display in a plastic bag.

ALDI told news.com.au that reducing their plastic would be a process that takes years and not weeks.

“Packaging on a select range of our fresh fruit is used to ensure the freshness of the product for our customers,” ALDI Australia produce buying director Gina Goodridge explained.

“From providing a physical barrier to delicate produce like strawberries and mushrooms, to preventing the greening of potatoes or the dehydration of refrigerated produce, our packaging methods are designed to deliver optimum freshness and prevent wastage.”