From 1 July 2021, Coles withdrew single-use plastic tableware from all its stores across Australia. The initiative, which had been announced earlier in the year, was part of a sustainability strategy with the labels “Together to Zero” and “Better Together”. The supermarket chain claimed that taking these items off their shelves would mean 1.5 million kilograms less plastic waste going to landfill each year. The change applied to Coles Supermarkets, Coles Express outlets and Coles Liquor stores.
Coles was not the first supermarket chain to remove single-use plastic tableware from their range. Aldi stopped selling it – as well as plastic straws and plastic-stemmed cotton buds – in 2020. Woolworths responded to the Coles initiative by saying that it would follow suit “in the near future”.
The plastic tableware was replaced by wooden cutlery and a range of plates, bowls and cups made from sugarcane pulp, which Coles named “Green Choice”. Unlike plastic, the new options were designed to break down in landfill. There was also an emphasis on reuseable plastic items.
The initiative followed the move by the major supermarket chains in 2018 to stop providing single-use plastic shopping bags. Further steps were underway to reduce the use of plastic packaging or to develop additional recycling options.
Coles was among more than 60 retailers and manufacturers that, in May 2021, signed up to the ANZPAC Plastic Pact. Among the leading manufacturers involved are Unilever, Coca-Cola, Arnott’s and Nestlé. Their target was for 100 per cent of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Under the Pact, they were committed to the elimination of unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging and to increasing the amount of plastic collected and recycled by 25 per cent.
Single-use plastics are a worldwide problem. Governments around the world have passed, or are proposing, legislation to ban single-use plastic tableware. South Australia banned the products in March 2021. In the UK, where a ban was imminent, The Guardian reported in August 2021 that the average person used 18 throwaway plastic plates and 37 single-use knives, forks and spoons a year. Since there are more than 68 million Brits, that’s a lot of plastic.