Eight things supermarkets should do on top of straw ban: Waste expert

Media release
06 June 2018

A Deakin waste management expert has praised measures adopted by Australia's major supermarkets to address the country's waste crisis, but said they needed to go further.

Dr Trevor Thornton, a lecturer in Deakin's School of Life and Environmental Sciences, congratulated the supermarkets for their recently-announced steps, which include plans by Woolworths to phase out plastic straw sales by 2019, and to remove packaging from 80 fruit and vegetable products.

Competitor Coles also announced it will make all its home branded packaging recyclable by 2020, and both supermarket giants have committed to stop using single use plastic bags in coming weeks.

"I'm glad to see Coles' commitment to examine its packaging before the Federal Environment Minister's deadline of 2025, when all packaging produced in Australia must be reusable, combustible, or recyclable," Dr Thornton said.

"It would be would be good to see other supermarkets follow suit, with a process to identify items that are over-packaged or packaged with composite materials (that then makes the packaging non-recyclable), and then set a requirement that these issues be resolved well before that 2025 deadline.

"Time is running out if we want to address our country's mounting waste burden. We need to get ahead of the game, and that means putting the pressure on the food manufacturers supplying our supermarkets too."

Dr Thornton said there were several other simple steps supermarkets could take if they wanted to get serious on waste reduction, including:

* Get rid of the stickers used on some fruit.
* Place items that have packaging with low environmental impact in prominent positions in the store.
* Investigate removing polystyrene packaging.
* Introduce a ‘green’ aisle that promotes sustainable products.
* Publish accurate data on the waste and energy reductions that have been made thanks to introduced changes.
* Require each store to contribute funds to a local environmental initiative.
* Make it easy for shoppers to contribute ideas or concerns about environmental issues.
* Advise suppliers that stores will be promoting products that are packaged with recycled material.

Dr Thornton's call comes after a Deakin University exchange student instigated a ban on plastic straws at student residences on Deakin's Warrnambool campus.

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Media release Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

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