About 360,000 tonnes of waste has been diverted from landfill in the past year, as part of Woolworths Group’s drive to ‘grow greener’.
The Federal Government has awarded a $1 million grant to the Battery Stewardship Council through the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund.
Australian-based sustainable packaging developer SECOS Group has been selected by Woolworths to supply its compostable products for sale through the supermarket giant’s network of Eco stores.
Animals at Sydney Zoo will soon be feeding on surplus fresh food rescued from Woolworths, after the zoo joined Woolworth’s Stock Feed for Farmers program.
According to a Woolworths statement, Sydney Zoo joins over 750 farmers and community groups that access surplus fresh food from the supermarket.
“Last year more than 32,000 tonnes of surplus food no longer suitable for sale or human consumption went to feed animals both on farms and in zoos,” the statement reads.
Woolworths Head of Sustainability Adrian Cullen said Woolworths first diversion priority is working with OzHarvest, Foodbank and Fareshare to feed people that would otherwise go hungry.
“We then work with local farmers and the likes of Sydney Zoo, so that surplus food, which cannot go to hunger relief, is used as feed for animals or for on-farm composting, to help further reduce any food waste,” he said.
Sydney Zoo Managing Director Jake Burgess said Woolworths’ support will allow the zoo to reallocate funds from food to conservation and education work.
The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has partnered with Woolworths and Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) to bring international sustainable food systems specialist Mark Barthel to Australia.
Mark Barthel has 25 years of experience fighting food waste with brands such as Tesco, Amazon, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Nestle, and international organisations such as WRAP, the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the FAO.
“It is an exciting time to be working with Woolworths, CRC and FIAL to develop a food waste reduction roadmap,” Mr Barthel said.
“Although only three per cent of national food waste is attributed to supermarkets, they still have a critical role to play in engaging with their customers about how they can make the most of the food they buy.”
Mr Barthel said Woolworths was at the forefront in educating customers to minimising food waste via their Food Savers program.
“They have also made commitments themselves, with 100 per cent of their stores now having a food waste diversion program in place,” Mr Barthel said.
“I am excited to be working closely with Woolworths to develop a roadmap that will see them engaging with suppliers, customers and community partners to work together to tackle this issue.”
According to the Australian National Food Waste Baseline report, 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, half of which ends up in landfill.
“Preventing food waste entering landfill in Australia would be the equivalent of taking over 1 million cars off the road in terms of its environmental impact,” Mr Barthel said.
“There is a huge role for businesses to play in reducing food waste along the supply chain, and in addition to working on a roadmap for Woolworths, I’m also going to be working with FIAL to establish a voluntary agreement program with Australian businesses as part of the National Food Waste Strategy.”
FIAL Managing Director Mirjana Prica said the organisation was thrilled to have Mr Barthel working on the implementation of the National Food Waste Strategy.
“His experience in setting up the UK’s Cortauld Agreement, and understanding of sustainable food systems, will provide invaluable insights that will help shape Australia’s efforts to reduce food waste,” Ms Prica said.
Woolworths is working with independent start-up Escavox, a business tasked with extending the shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables in retail outlets by tracking and monitoring produce from the farm to the supermarket, according to an Australian Financial Review report.
Escavox was started last year with a plan to track each pallet of fruit and vegetables and measure temperature, time and location.
John Dahlsen, former chairman of Woolworths has joined the start-up led by CEO Luke Wood.
Temperature controls and specialised packaging are common measures to prevent product losses in the supply chain.
According to Escavox’s website, production and supply chain data needs to be automatically collected and impartially managed if it is to be trusted and acted on.
It points out that siloed operators, inconsistent visibility in each leg of the chain, limited incentives to collaborate and multiple points of handover has led to no aggregated data and no person or party able to see or understand the complete supply chain.
This makes it difficult to assign product accountability and prevent liability from those who own the product even if that cause is not within their control.
In addition to developing its own recyclable products and reducing unnecessary packaging, Woolworths is working towards a zero food waste future.
New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.
The new targets aim to aim to increase the average recycled content within all packaging by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.
Additionally, the targets aim to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.
These build on the previous announcement of a target to achieve 100 per cent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
- Planet Ark provide councils packaging recycling label webinars
- Championing packaging sustainability
- Nestlé’s packaging plan
The targets build on commitments made by federal, state and territory environment ministers and the President for the Australian Local Government Association earlier in April this year.
Industry representatives and environmental groups support the targets including Aldi, ALGA, Amcor, Australia Post, Boomerang Alliance, Chep, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Detmold, Goodman Fielder, Lion, Metcash, Nestlé, Orora, Pact Group, Planet Ark, Redcycle, Simplot, Suez, Tetra Pak, Unilever, Veolia, Visy and Woolworths.
Woolworths General Manager, Quality and Sustainability Alex Holt highlighted the importance of this collaboration.
“We’re really pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal. Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” Mr Holt said.
Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price congratulated the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the initial working group of businesses that are supporting the targets.
Minister Price has also officially launched the Australasian recycling Label to help achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.
“The Australasian Recycling Label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in. The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” Ms Price said.
With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australia, the new system aims to reduce confusion and contamination in the waste stream.
Nestlé Head of Corporate and External Relations Oceania Margaret Stuart said the inclusion of the label on Netslé’s packaging was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to sustainability.
“More and more people who buy our products want to know how to manage packing waste, so we have committed to implementing the Australasian Recycling Label across all our locally controlled products by 2020,” Ms Stuart said.
Unilever ANZ CEO Clive Stiff has said the announcements are a critical step towards greater collective action on increasing the nationals recycling capability.
“Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year. The benefits of the circular economy approach are clear for business and the environment – the more effective use of materials means lower costs and less waste,” Mr Stiff said.
“We are proud to have recently announced that bottles of popular Unilever products like OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf and TRESemmé will soon be made with at least 25% Australian recycled plastic.
“This is just the start for us and no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”
Waste Management Review speaks to RED Group’s Rebecca Gleghorn about the success of its soft plastics recycling program.
Planet Ark is increasing its efforts to educate Australians about Australasia Recycling Labels, including councils and educators.
In partnership with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), the Australasian Recycling Label has entered into a new phase which will allow more companies to adopt it. Organisations such as Australia Post, Blackmores, Nestlé, Unilever and Woolworths have already pledged their commitment to the label.
- APCO’s packaging recycling label program
- Planet Ark partner with Bingo Industries to divert coffee grounds
- Bingo and Planet Ark renew partnership
It has been designed to be easy to understand and show what needs to be done with each piece of packaging to dispose of it in the best way.
Because councils play an important part in the recycling process and are the source of the evidence base used by the label, Planet Ark is hosting a series of free webinars in the coming weeks.
Council and waste industry staff members that are interested can sign up by clicking here.
Webinars are planned for the following dates:
- August 28 – 11am AEST
- September 4 – 11am AEST
- September 12 – 1pm AEST
- September 20 – 1pm AEST