Supermarket Inquiry- What We Have Asked For

The ACCC has been taking submissions from interested parties about the major supermarkets. This has largely been focused on pricing and whether there has been unfair behaviour by the supermarkets with primary producers and consumers. The Boomerang Alliance took the opportunity to present our views on two key issues raised by our supermarket audit run with the AMCS. Those were pricing packaged fresh produce at lower than loose items and the continued misleading recycling information on labels.

In our submission, we stated:

We, and our supporters regularly monitor the actions of supermarkets with respect to packaging. The issue we receive most comment on from supporters and the public is the practice of charging more for loose fruit and vegetables compared to equivalent products that are packaged. This practice provides a clear price incentive to purchase unnecessary packaging. Packaging that councils and their ratepayers have to foot the bill for collection and recovery. In the case of plastic (soft plastics) packaging services, there is no collection service so it all goes to waste (with associated public cost)

Supermarkets offer products in packaging that the consumer accepts will be recovered after use. Reuse and recycling are important considerations for most consumers when making purchasing decisions. Data from APCO (Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation) indicates that less than 20% of plastic packaging is being recovered, and the rest is being wasted. An estimated 3-4% of plastic packaging contains recycled content. 

Many supermarkets and brands now use the Australian Recycling label (ARL) to promote their environmental credentials to consumers. The ARL provides information on the recyclability of product packaging and information on its correct discard to avoid waste. Since October 2022, there has been no in-store collection of soft plastics. Despite this, the ARL (provided by the two major supermarkets) still advises consumers they can discard soft plastics in-store. The ARL should be changed if no service is provided.

The ARL itself needs to be reviewed as it suggests to consumers that their packaging (particularly plastics) will be recycled. The ARL description of recyclability needs to be expanded to include the requirements that any packaging is recovered, in practice and at scale.

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  • Penny Davies
    commented 2024-07-06 15:59:48 +1000
    Unnecessary packaging is clogging up the world! Wrapping cabbages in plastic is ridiculous…they already have leaves which wrap them. Also I note that unpackaged items, such as carrots, are more expensive per kg than prepackaged items. I pay more to fill my vegetable bag that I brought from home than it costs to buy the same weight in a plastic bag. It should be the other way around. Or preferably nothing should be pre-wrapped in the vegetable aisle at least.
  • Sue Propsting
    commented 2024-07-06 14:58:46 +1000
    Re Coles: The packaging labelling is not only misleading and dishonest. It forces consumers who buy organic to buy more than needed (eg. packs of three organic cucumbers, when consumer wants ONE FRESH at a time) which leads to waste not only of unnecessary packaging but also of the organic cucumbers that do not stay fresh long enough.
  • Sara Gibson
    published this page in Latest News 2024-05-23 11:33:25 +1000