Woolworths, Australia’s largest supermarket chain, announced on Monday that it has removed approximately 9,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from circulation over the last four years* as it works towards transitioning its entire Own Brand range to recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging by 2023.
The milestone comes in the lead up to World Environment Day on Saturday and is the result of a sustained effort to reduce plastic packaging at Woolworths in line with its 2025 Sustainability Plan.
The packaging has been changed on more than 550 products, which has seen almost 800 tonnes of plastic removed from produce, around 600 tonnes removed from bakery products and approximately 400 tonnes yearly removed from milk bottles since 2018.
Woolworths’ sustainable packaging team are progressively working across the supermarket’s entire Own Brand range and fresh produce to either remove plastic packaging altogether, reduce the volume of plastic used, increase the use of recycled materials or make packaging 100 per cent recyclable.
Woolworths Supermarkets Head of Sustainability, Adrian Cullen, said: “We know the steps we take to become a more sustainable supermarket today will help create a better tomorrow for generations to come.”
“More and more customers want to reduce their plastic use, and we’ve taken approximately 9,000 tonnes of plastic out of our packaging over the last four years to make it easier for them to shop more sustainably. To put this in perspective, it’s the equivalent weight of 16 A380 aircraft.”
Mr Cullen said that the company is proud of the progress they’ve made in going greener, but know there’s plenty more to do and will continue to make changes to cut plastic in the products their customers put in their shopping baskets.
“Some plastic packaging is necessary to preserve food and minimise food waste, so where we can’t remove it, we’re challenging ourselves to reduce it. We’re also working to include more recycled plastic to minimise its impact,” he said.
Some of the packaging changes customers can already see in their local Woolworths include replacing plastic trays with pulp trays for a number of tomato varieties, replacing plastic tags on produce with paper, and paper meat trays for Woolworths’ Specially Selected and Grass-Fed steaks.
Customers can expect to see more sustainable packaging changes as the supermarket accelerates work to meet a range of commitments for its Own Brand packaging over the coming years, including:
- 2023: 100 per cent of Own Brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or compostable;
- 2024: Halve the use of new (virgin) plastic packaging (by weight against a 2018 baseline); and
- 2025: Use an average of 60 per cent recycled material in packaging.
In addition, Woolworths has also removed a number of single-use plastics by:
- Replacing plastic cotton tip stems with paper and sugarcane stems across the range, which is expected to save almost 500 million pieces of plastic yearly;
- Becoming the first supermarket to stop selling plastic straws, removing over 280 million straws since 2018; and
- Removing single-use plastic shopping bags nationwide, a reduction of 9 billion bags in circulation since 2018.
In October this year, Woolworths will also remove all single-use plastic tableware like cutlery, cups, plates and bowls from sale nationwide, which is expected to result in 1,700 tonnes less plastic yearly.
To help divert household soft plastic – which can’t commonly be recycled through curbside council bins – from landfill, Woolworths offers soft plastic recycling through its network of REDcycle collection bins, available in every store. Since 2017, Woolworths’ REDcycle program has recycled 1.1 billion pieces of soft plastic.
Creating a convenient recycling hub for customers, Woolworths will also roll out battery and mobile phone collection bins across its 1,000 supermarkets by August.
*Plastic reduction calculated based on sales volumes, approximately forecast based on the volume of sales the year prior to packaging improvements being implemented.