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Plastic Diversion

by Jasbinder Singh
reducing plastic

We understand many of our customers’ growing concerns about reducing plastics in our stores, and we’re working hard to address them. While the removal of single-use plastic bags from all of our stores was a significant step forward, it is far from the end of our sustainability efforts.

Our strategy for addressing the plastic problem is to eliminate plastic wherever possible and to work toward ‘closing the loop’ by encouraging recycling through design, technology, and clear communication with our customers.

We collaborate with REDcycle, and customers can return soft plastic items in all of our stores, where they are recycled into items such as furniture. We are also a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization (APCO), where we work with industry bodies and government to drive change by making joint commitments to make packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable.

  • We are constantly reviewing how plastic is used and are currently experimenting with removing plastic packaging from key fruit and vegetable lines.
  • These trials aim to ensure that we can reduce the amount of plastic in products without causing food waste.
  • In the two years leading up to April 2020, we had removed approximately 890 tonnes of plastic packaging from our Woolworths branded fruit and vegetable and bakery ranges.
  • We recognise that some of our organic produce is packaged in plastic to protect the integrity of the Organic certified product; however, we will be working on more environmentally friendly solutions soon.

Did you know that packaging can play a significant role in environmental protection? They can help to reduce food waste by preserving the quality and extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables as they travel from the farm to the store and, eventually, to you. A plastic-wrapped continental cucumber, for example, has a three-fold shelf life compared to an unwrapped continental cucumber.

Single-use plastic bag free

Woolworths has been proudly free of single-use plastic bags since June 20, 2018. We were the first major retailer to phase out plastic bags, as part of our commitment to reducing our environmental impact. Every year, we expect to remove 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags from our stores.

We are grateful to you for assisting us in taking this critical step toward a greener future.

The proceeds from the sale of our reusable ‘Bag for Good’ go to our Woolworths Junior Landcare Grants programme, which assists young Australians in getting involved in gardening and recycling projects. So far, 1,155 schools and early learning centres across Australia have received a Grant, assisting over 100,000 students in environmental stewardship.Click here to see our interactive map of projects across the country and find out more about Woolworths Junior Landcare projects near you.

Since December of 2018, there have been no plastic straws.

To reduce the amount of plastic that enters the environment, we stopped selling plastic straws in all Woolworths Group stores in Australia and New Zealand (Supermarkets, Endeavour Drinks, Big W). This equates to removing 134 million plastic straws from circulation each year.

Reducing the use of plastic on fruits and vegetables

Many customers have recently told us that they want to see a reduction in plastics throughout the store, particularly on fruits and vegetables. We’ve been listening, and we’re working hard to address over-packaged products in our lineup.Plastic has been reduced in a variety of our products, including organic bananas, tomatoes, stone fruit, celery bunches, kale, and organic spring onions. We’ve also used a recycled cardboard tray instead of a plastic tray for our own brand sweet potatoes, organic apples, and some tomato varieties. This is an important first step, but we know there is still a lot of plastic to be removed.

To reduce food waste, some packaging is required. Fruit and vegetables are packaged to protect their quality and extend their shelf life as they travel from the farm to the store and our customers. A plastic-wrapped continental cucumber, for example, has a three-fold shelf life compared to an unwrapped continental cucumber.Even though sweet potatoes are a hardy vegetable, a layer of plastic extends their life by 7-10 days.

We are investing in long-term solutions that reduce our environmental impact while also meeting our customers’ needs.

Reducing the use of plastic in our bakery

We replaced plastic with a reclaimed and rapidly renewable sugarcane pulp that is certified home compostable and recyclable, removing 592 tonnes of plastic packaging sold per year from our in-store bakery. We received a special commendation for this work at the Australian Institute of Packaging’s annual Packaging Innovation and Design Awards, as well as the WorldStar Packaging Awards in 2020.

Woolworths products are being reduced and reused.

We’re committed to using less plastic and more recycled content across the Woolworths product line. While we’ve made some strides, we know there’s still a lot more we can do, and we’re working with our suppliers to find ways to reduce our environmental impact. Among the most recent examples:

  • The majority of our meat trays and Strike cleaning sprays are made of at least 95% recycled plastic.
  • Our 15 cent reusable bag is eco-certified and made of at least 80% recycled plastic.
  • Some of our Own Brand 600ml spring water bottles have been converted to 100 percent recycled plastic.

Woolworths products with recycling labels

We understand that determining what is recyclable can be difficult, especially when an item comes in multiple packaging types. That is why we were the first supermarket to introduce a new on-pack product. The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) can be found on our Woolworths-branded products. Each label instructs you on how to properly dispose of each type of packaging. Planet Ark’s three distinct logos will be used on our label, which will inform you:

  • What should you recycle in your council-approved recycling bin?
  • What to recycle at our conditional return to soft plastics storage facility REDcycle containers
  • What should you put in your council-approved general waste bin?

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) is an evidence-based recycling information system for Australia and New Zealand that provides you with simple recycling information when you need it the most. It clears up confusion, saves time, and reduces waste to landfill.

Recyclable packaging

The solid recycling logo indicates that this piece of packaging can be recycled in its entirety. Please recycle this item by placing each component in your local council recycling bin or public recycling bin separately.










Conditionally Recyclable

The clear/transparent recycling symbol indicates that you must recycle this packaging component according to the instructions. There are numerous recyclability label instructions that are “conditional.” It is critical to follow the instructions or else throw the packaging component away, as it will not be recycled and will contaminate the recycling stream. Please recycle this item by returning it to our in-store REDcycle soft plastics collection bins when the condition says “return to store.”

Non-Recyclable packaging

The bin symbol indicates that this piece of packaging cannot be recycled and should be disposed of in your council-approved general waste bin to avoid contaminating the recycling stream.

More information on the ARL can be found here.

All stores have soft plastic recycling bins.

Every Woolworths store in Australia has a soft plastics recycling bin where you can bring in soft plastics that you can’t recycle at home. This contributes to reducing the amount of plastic bags and packaging that ends up in landfills. Our partners REDcycle recycle soft plastics returned to stores into benches, bollards, and other items that can be used in our stores and parking lots.

We collect reusable green bags, single-use plastic bags, bread bags, biscuit wrap, and frozen food bags as they become worn and old. These items cannot be recycled at home in your local council’s recycle bin, so please bring them to our stores to be recycled into reusable furniture and equipment.

Recycling of bottles near Woolworths stores (Container Deposit or Refund Schemes)

Container deposit or return schemes have been implemented to aid in the reduction of litter and landfill through recycling. Many states and territories will have special container collection points, with many of them conveniently located near Woolworths stores. Please contact your local council for more information.

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