Supermarkets in Australia are a $130 billion industry and responsible for supplying the majority of household plastic packaging. The Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Boomerang Alliance have audited plastic use in our supermarkets and released a first audit on their performance.
We used publicly available data and then followed up with specific questions directly to the supermarkets. We focussed on the big three (Woolworths, Coles and ALDI) with a watching brief on Metcash (IGA/Foodland).
Based on our assessments ALDI leads the way in the Australian market, achieving the highest score in 2023. We note that all our supermarkets still have a long way to go before they are any way near world's best practice, something we think should be the goal.
A big thank you to all our citizen investigators for conducting their own surveys. The data was captured in the report. We plan for this to be an annual audit.
- Most supermarkets are not transparent about their plastic footprint.
Reuse and refill systems need to be scaled up urgently, to provide consumers with cost comparative options without unnecessary plastic packaging
Leading supermarkets are not prioritising removal of plastic, over-relying on false solutions such as 'lightweighting' - making packaging lighter to claim plastic reductions.
Loose fresh produce is frequently more expensive than plastic-packed produce, pushing consumers towards unnecessary plastic packaging, and penalises those who try to reduce their plastic consumption in a cost-of-living crisis.
Supplier packaging guidelines are rarely enforced, allowing suppliers to use whatever packaging option is cheapest or easiest to print marketing material onto.
- Recycling and recycled content was the worst performing area of all assessed categories. In spite of the message coming from Australian supermarkets, little real progress has been made on increasing the recycled content in plastic packaging, diminishing recycling efforts and the vision of creating a circular economy for plastics in Australia.