Australian supermarket giant Coles has reached a milestone of one billion pieces of soft plastics recycled through its partnership with REDcycle, a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic.
Coles has taken a step toward being Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, due to its commitments to continue reducing packaging and food waste as well as greenhouse emissions.
On World Environment Day on June 5, the supermarket giant announced its been one year since it unveiled Coles is driving generational sustainability part of the Group’s transformation strategy.
To date, Coles customers and team members have recycled 997 million pieces of soft plastic through REDCycle and donated grocery essentials to the retail value of $7.9 million to vulnerable Australians during COVID-19.
Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve, who leads Coles’ sustainability strategy, said the Group’s efforts have been due to over 115,000 team members serving more than 20 million customers every week, who “have a material impact on our ability to implement sustainable practices in the communities in which we operate”.
“Whether it’s making a donation at the checkout to SecondBite or dropping off soft plastics at a Coles REDCycle bin, each one of our customers are helping achieve our mission to become the most sustainable supermarket in Australia,” Keeve said.
Over the past 12 months Coles has made further progress on its commitments to increase the proportion of energy it sources from renewables and implement more sustainable processes across its stores.
“By using energy more efficiently and investing in renewable energy projects, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 per cent since 2009, including a six per cent reduction in the 2019 financial year alone,” Keeve said.
Coles has installed solar panels on 38 supermarkets since June 2019, increasing the total number of on-site solar electricity generation facilities to 68, while construction has also commenced on three new solar power plants based in regional New South Wales, from which Coles will purchase the equivalent of 10 per cent of its national electricity consumption.
In the past two months Coles has also opened two of its most sustainable supermarkets with Coles Local in Melbourne’s Hawthorn and Sydney’s Rose Bay.
Coles said that these stores feature team member uniforms made from 65 per cent recycled bottles, trolleys made partly from recycled plastic and free reclaimed customer carry boxes as an alternative to bags.
Coles stated it plans to roll these sustainability initiatives to more of its stores over the coming months.
The Western Australian Government will begin enforcing its lightweight plastic bag ban will from January 1, 2019, with fines of up to $5000 for retailers that continue to supply plastic bags.
Plastic bag suppliers and manufacturers that provide misleading information when selling bags to retailers also risk prosecution and fines.
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The ban includes any bag made of plastic with handles and a thickness of 35 microns or less.
WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the state’s plastic bag ban has been well supported by the community.
“From January 1, 2019 it will be an offence for retailers to supply lightweight plastic bags – this includes small retail shops, takeaway food outlets and markets,” Mr Dawson said.
“Consumers can help by remembering to take their own reusable bags when they go shopping.
“Taking lightweight plastic bags out of the litter stream is a significant step towards protecting our environment.”
Waste Management Review speaks to RED Group’s Rebecca Gleghorn about the success of its soft plastics recycling program.
Young Victorians and parents with children are key contributors to the state’s food waste dilemma, according to new research commissioned by Sustainability Victoria.
The research findings showed that Generation Z throw out $115 of food waste weekly, compared to Baby Boomers who reported just over a tenth of that at $17 per week.
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The research also found that almost half (46 per cent) of Victorians are not aware of how much money they are throwing in the bin in the form of food waste, with nine out of every 10 feeling guilt about how much food they waste.
Men were reported to waste close to twice as much as women, throwing away $54 in food waste compared to $29.
Parents with children under the age of 16 years old were also highly likely to throw out food, with more than one third believing it is their children who are responsible for the waste.
More than three quarters of respondents to the research showed a strong desire to save money on groceries, with the average Victorian household throwing away more than $2000 a year worth of food.
The research was conducted by QDOS research, which surveyed 1001 Australians over the age of 18 years old.
The findings are part of a new campaign which has launched called Love Food Hate Waste, Love a List – which encouraged Victorians to write better shopping lists and stick to them to reduce food waste and save money.
The Victorian Government has also announced an additional $1 million funding for the Love Food Hate Waste campaign to reduce food waste through to 2021.
The research findings found that only 43 per cent of Victorians shopped with a list, with 46 per cent admitting they buy food they don’t need.
Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said that preventing food from being wasted is the best way to address the costly problem.
“We know from previous research that households that use a shopping list reduce their food waste compared to those who don’t. Through the Love Food Hate Waste, Love a List campaign, we’re giving Victorians the tools they need to reduce their food waste,” said Mr Krpan.
Comedian Cal Wilson hosted a documentary to highlight the issue of food waste, which has significant environmental impacts. She said she was genuinely shocked at how much food is thrown out.
“There’s so much we can do to reduce food waste that doesn’t include overeating, or giving leftovers as presents. A really great first step is making a shopping list and sticking to it,” said Ms Wilson
Sustainability Victoria recommends threes ways to shop smarter, which are planning the week’s meals, writing a list and eating everything that has been bought.
Microbeads are being phased out of cosmetics and personal care products in Australia, according to an independent assessment.
The federal government commissioned the assessment which found that out of approximately 4400 relevant supermarket and pharmacy products inspected, only six per cent contained microbeads.
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This follows the challenge set by Australia’s environmental ministers to voluntarily phase out microbeads in cosmetic and personal use products.
The independent assessment found no shampoos, conditioners, body washes or hand cleaners containing microbeads, the remaining six per cent were not “rinse off” products and posed a smaller risk to the environment.
Microbeads are plastic particles of around one millimetres in diameter and are often found in exfoliants. They can have a damaging effect on marine life and the environment because of their ability to attract toxins, pollute waterways and transfer up the food chain.
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the best solution is to prevent them from entering marine environments in the first place.
“Governments have been working with industry to do just this since the Meeting of Environment Ministers in 2016,” he said.
“While our original target was 90 per cent, we will continue the good work done to date until 100 per cent of cosmetics and personal care products are microbead-free,”
“I thank industry for their cooperation and look forward to continuing to work with them until we reach 100 per cent.”
Assistant Minister for the Environment Melissa Price said she was pleased with how well the phase out had gone, considering it was an optional phase out of products by the industry.
“I am really pleased to see such a strong industry response, given the damage that microbeads can do to our marine ecosystems,” Assistant Minister Price said.
“This is further proof that industry is capable of making the right choices when it comes to environmental protection.”
The Federal Government will commission a further assessment on late 2018 to provide an additional level of assurance of the success of the phase out.
Supermarket giant Woolworths has announced its supermarkets will no longer provide shoppers with single-use plastic bags from 20 June 2018.
The move also effects its BWS, Metro and Woolworths Petrol stores, where group wide more than 3.2 billion plastic bags are handed out each year.
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Woolworths Group stated last year that it would end the use of plastic bags by the end of June 2018 in states where there had not been a ban implemented yet.
Woolworths Group Chief Executive Officer Brad Banducci said the company feels strongly that this is the right thing to do.
“Our teams have been working hard behind the scenes to accelerate the rollout of this plan so we can start making a positive impact on the environment as quickly as possible,” Mr Banducci said.
“We know this is a big change for our customers and store teams, and we need to do all we can to make the transition as seamless as possible for both.
“To this end, we have a dozen supermarkets across Australia going single-use plastic bag free from today. We’ll closely monitor feedback from customers in these stores and apply any lessons we learn to our national rollout on 20 June.”
The 12 Woolworths stores phasing out plastic bags from today are:
- NSW – Woolworths Marayong, Greenway Village, Dural, Mullumbimby
- VIC – Woolworths Wyndham Vale, Taylors Lakes, Toorak
- QLD – Woolworths Mossman, Noosa Civic
- WA – Woolworths Singleton, South Fremantle, Cottesloe
Planet Ark Chief Executive Officer Paul Klymenko said this is a welcome move by Woolworths that will have a positive effect on the environment.
“Single-use plastic bags have become a huge problem for Australia’s oceans and waterways where they cause significant harm to turtles, whales and fish. They also don’t breakdown in landfill and require significant resources to manufacture in the first place,” Mr Klymenko said.
“Experiences in countries like the UK and Ireland have shown the introduction of small charges on plastic bags can end up reducing plastic bag usage by up to 85 percent as shoppers embrace reusable alternatives, and we have every confidence this can happen in Australia too,” he said.
Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the community wants action on the alarming growth of plastic pollution.
“It is gratifying to see retailers like Woolworths moving on plastic bags to help save our oceans and wildlife, with international scientific consensus putting bags in the top three dangers of ingestion and entanglement of marine life,” Mr Angel said.
“We encourage shoppers to adopt reusable bags. Of course, there’s much more to do in stores to reduce our plastic footprint and we look forward to working with consumers, retailers and government to push the agenda along,” he said.
Woolworths has also said it aims to offer flexible plastic recycling options in all supermarkets via the REDcycle program. REDcycle allows customers to return soft plastic packaging used for produce, frozen food, confectionary packets and shopping bags that are then sent to recycling partners. The material collected are then turned into products like outdoor furniture.