Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths are stepping up their war on plastic, introducing new targets to slash the amount of wrapping on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as tackling food waste.
The retailers on Monday committed to going further than their previous announcements to ditch single-use plastic bags in response to demands from consumers.
“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,” Coles managing director John Durkan said on Monday.
Coles pledged to reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and veges, including bunches of bananas, kale and silver beet, and replace meat and poultry product packaging with recycled and renewable materials.
It set itself a deadline of 2020 to halve food waste from its supermarkets and make all packaging of its branded products recyclable.
The retailer will also donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by redistributing surplus food.
Customers will also be able to recycle soft plastics at every Coles supermarket so the material can be converted into products including outdoor furniture and road base.
Meanwhile, rival Woolworths says plastic straws will be banned by the end of this year, while its program to remove plastic wrap from fruit and veges will be expanded to include another 80 products.
Woolies is also searching for a partner to help reduce food waste from its stores.
Chief executive Brad Banducci said in the past year there had been a shift among consumers towards adopting more sustainable attitudes.
“While we’ve made progress in reducing the amount of plastic in our stores, supported recycling labelling initiatives, and made improvements in energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing and reducing food waste, we know that more needs to be done to meet our customers’ expectations,” he said.
Greenpeace Australia welcomed the move by the retailers as a step in the right direction.
“Obviously Greenpeace would like to see a phase-out of all single-use plastics across-the-board because we know that plastics is a looming problem for our environment and our society,” a spokesman told AAP.
“People are infuriated by this. You only have to do a search on social media and see people enraged by apples wrapped in plastic.”
“Plastic bags are used on average for seven minutes and then last for hundreds of years.”
Woolworths and Coles last July joined the push to rid Australia of disposable plastic bags, and set a deadline of June 30, 2018 for their stores to stop offering them to shoppers.
Woolworths later brought forward that deadline to June 20.
The step-up in the campaign against waste by Coles and Woolies comes a week after the European Union outlined plans for a ban on single-use plastics including straws, cutlery and cotton buds.