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Championing sustainable packaging

While packaging plays a key role in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste, Coles is also committed to reducing its impact on the environment. In June 2018, Coles committed to a number of packaging initiatives including:

  • All Coles own brand packaging will be recyclable by 2020;
  • More recycled content will be included in Coles own brand packaging;
  • Excess packaging will be reduced across stores and the supply chain;
  • Soft plastic recycling options will be available in all Coles supermarkets; and
  • New labelling promoting recycling will be introduced.

These commitments reflect the Coles Sustainable Packaging Policy and will be implemented through a packaging steering committee and specific working groups across the business.

Consumer packaging

Coles will also introduce the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) launched by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, PlanetArk and PREP Design. The ARL uses a nationally consistent packaging assessment tool to determine the appropriate recycling label for different packaging components. In calendar year 2017, while the majority of Coles own brand products had recyclable packaging, less than 20 per cent carried recycling information.

In FY19, Coles will introduce a program to reduce and optimise fresh produce packaging. While some packaging is required for transport, to support product longevity and reduce food waste, Coles acknowledges there are areas where packaging can be reduced. By the end of 2018, plastic packaging will be removed from all Coles own brand bananas.

During FY18, Coles also announced the roll out Plantic™ packaging for a wide range of Coles own brand fresh meat products. The packaging is both recyclable and made entirely from a combination of recycled and renewable materials. Plantic’s™ trays are made from recycled PET (rPET) with a thin layer of Plantic’s™ renewable barrier material, made from corn starch, which helps keeps the meat fresh. During the recycling process, the thin starch layer washes away, allowing the rPET tray to be recycled. Coles has used a previous version of Plantic™ for Coles own brand fresh beef mince, pork mince and lamb mince since 2014. The previous version was recyclable but not made of 100 per cent recyclable or renewable product.

Since 2014, Coles own brand still water has been packaged in bottles made of 100 per cent recycled content and in FY18 it introduced new heavy-duty reusable carry bags made from 80 per cent recycled content and which are also recyclable. Coles also plans to introduce fresh produce bags in 2018 made from 30 per cent recycled content that can also be recycled in-store thought REDcycle. Coles will continue to look for other opportunities to include recycled content in Coles own brand product packaging.

In-store plastic and cardboard

On 1 July 2018, Coles removed single-use plastic shopping bags across all its businesses. The move brought stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia in line with Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, where Coles already complied with legislated bans on single-use bags. Coles introduced a range of reusable bags including an entry level bag made from 80 per cent recycled content, and a range of reusable community bags, designed by Australian school children, that support community organisations.

Commencing in June 2018, Coles supermarkets began introducing new fixtures for the ends of some aisles in over 600 stores.

The new metal ends will replace cardboard ends currently supplied by branded product suppliers and are expected to result in a reduction of 3,500 tonnes of cardboard per year. The program is expected to be completed in September 2018.

Transport packaging

Coles has replaced some corrugated cardboard, waxed cardboard and expanded polystyrene boxes with reusable plastic crates across its supply chain. At the end of FY18, it had six million reusable plastic crates in circulation with over 400 suppliers being used for fruit, vegetables, poultry, red meat and pre-packaged salads. In addition to removing cardboard, waxed cardboard and expanded polystyrene from the supply chain, these crates help to reduce product damage which cuts down on food waste. Coles plans to introduce additional reusable plastic crates in collaboration with more suppliers in FY19.