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July 19, 2024

Solutions to plastic waste crisis?

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New supermarket audit investigates plastic waste crisis. Supplied.

Supermarkets all claim to be leading the way in sustainability in Australia – but who is doing the most to cut plastic? For the first time, an independent audit by Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Boomerang Alliance has revealed the truth about plastic packaging in supermarkets.

You can see how your supermarket scored here.

With AMCS supporters saying supermarket plastic is one of their biggest concerns, the new audit examined the plastic footprint of major brands Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Metcash (IGA/Foodland). Supermarkets were assessed across five categories: transparency, plastic footprint reduction, reusables, recycling and recycled content, and policy, planning and governance.

Photo andyschaible.blogspot.com

Aldi leads, Woolworths trails

Supermarkets in Australia are a $130.2 billion industry, and are responsible for the majority of household plastic packaging. AMCS and the Boomerang Alliance found that most supermarkets were unable to demonstrate evidence of significant progress in cutting plastic and increasing the use of recycled plastic content.

Aldi leads the way in the race to stop plastic pollution, while Woolworths trails behind.

Other key findings:

  • Fresh produce is frequently cheaper in pre-packed options compared to fresh produce sold loose.
  • Most supermarkets are not committed to transparently reporting their plastic footprint.
  • Supermarkets are doing very little to increase the use of reuse and refill options.
  • Instead of cutting plastic, most supermarkets are using false solutions like reducing the thickness of packaging.
  • Guidelines for suppliers on sustainable packaging are rarely enforced.
  • Supermarkets are not doing enough to ensure plastic packaging is recyclable or contains recycled content.

AMCS and the Boomerang Alliance say customers all have the power to influence companies like Coles and Woolworths, by voting with our feet and choosing to shop at the most sustainable supermarkets

You can read about the best and the worst in supermarket plastic packaging in Australia in this new consumer guide.

Political solutions

Jeff Angel from the Boomerang Alliance is also calling on environment ministers to move on tough packaging waste regulation as they meet today, in an effort to stop waste and plastic pollution.

‘In the aftermath of the REDcycle disaster and revelations that packaging producers and retailers won’t meet the 2025 national targets for packaging recycling and use of recycled content, environment ministers face a simple choice – let industry continue their wasteful ways or implement the community’s expectations of environmental responsibility,’ said Jeff Angel, Director of the Alliance of 55 groups.

Soft plastic waste. EPA.

‘With Australia second only to Singapore in its use of single use plastic; up to 580,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of ocean; virtually no soft plastics being collected and recycled; plastic pollution predicted to triple by 2040; and very low recycling rates – it’s time to act,’ he said.

‘The Boomerang Alliance has submitted a best practice scheme that will make a real difference to recycling and recycled content as well as reducing the amount of plastic and adoption of reusables. Our 55 allied groups and other key stakeholders are determined that the community won’t be duded again with a weak approach,’ said Mr Angel.

The 10 guiding principles for this scheme are:

  • Prioritisation of Avoidance and Reduction.
  • Best Practice Eco-Design of Products.
  • Mandated Standards.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) – Whole of Life Cycle & Supply Chain.
  • Mandatory National Targets and Obligations.
  • Development of Secondary Markets.
  • A national scheme managed under Commonwealth legislation.
  • A standardised monitoring, compliance, and enforcement regime.
  • Commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Consumer Education and Awareness.
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  1. Plastic is shipped to third-world for recycling. Third-world dumps it in the ocean instead. Plastic washes back up on our beaches. Greenies think we dump plastic in the ocean.
    Just dump it all into a hole in the ground. That’s where it comes from in the first place.


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