Australian Supermarkets Make Sustainability Promise
SYDNEY — Within four years in Australia, the plastic packaging encasing any item on the shelf in Coles and Woolworths will be able to be recycled, reused, or composted.
The supermarket giants are among some of the nation’s biggest food and drink brands to have signed the Plastics Pact, which promises to reach a series of ambitious reduction targets by 2025.
Almost 60 businesses from across the Oceania region have committed to eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging and to ensure that any that remains is recyclable, reusable, or compostable.
Unilever, Nestle, and Arnott’s Biscuits and Vanuatu Brewing, and the Samoa Tourism Authority in the Pacific are also among the businesses signed up.
The businesses have also pledged to increase the amount of plastic packaging recycled to 25 percent and average a quarter of recycled content in all plastic packaging.
Woolworths head of sustainability Adrian Cullen claims that the ‘Pact’ marked the first opportunity for the entire industry to collaborate on solutions.
“In recent years, we’ve removed thousands of tonnes of plastic from our packaging and stores, but we know there’s more to do, and we can’t do it alone,” he said.
Coles chief executive Greg Davis lauded the Pact as a step towards the company goal of becoming Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, with zero waste.
However, with only 18 percent of the one million tonnes of plastic packaging sold in Australia currently recovered, there’s a lot of work to do.
Among the businesses are representatives from all the plastics supply chain stages — manufacturers like Amcor, retailers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and recyclers like Veolia.
That is crucial, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation‘s Brooke Donnelly says, as improvements can be made at both ends of the chain.
About two-thirds of plastic packaging sold is already recyclable, but just over a quarter is recovered.
“Design is really important in terms of ensuring that you create packaging that has the best chance of making it through the system and being sorted and collected and recovered,” she said.
“There are some plastic packaging formats that are just very difficult to recover, and we actually need to move away from altogether.”
Currently, packaging made out of several types of plastic or plastics of certain sizes or colors is difficult to recycle.
But there are problems at the other end of the system, too, Donnelly says, with limited recycling infrastructure in Australia.
“There’s a bit of a speed hump period that we need to go through to get the right infrastructure to support higher levels of plastic recycling.”
The next step for the businesses who have signed on to the Pact is developing a road map for how they’ll reach the targets.
Donnelly claims that there’s a role for consumers to play, too, in supporting businesses committed to change.
“Vote at the register if you want to call out organizations that aren’t sustainable.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra)