Supermarket giants step up war on plastic

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths are stepping up their war on plastic, introducing new targets to slash the amount of wrapping on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as tackling food waste.

The retailers on Monday committed to going further than their previous announcements to ditch single-use plastic bags in response to demands from consumers.

"We know that 69 per cent of customers say that we need to actively reduce waste and landfill through recyclable packaging and find alternative uses for waste," Coles managing director John Durkan said.

Coles pledged to reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and veges, including bunches of bananas, kale and silver beet, and replace meat and poultry packaging with recycled and renewable materials.

It set itself a deadline of 2020 to halve food waste from its supermarkets and make all packaging of its home-brand products recyclable.

The retailer will also donate the equivalent of 100 million meals to people in need by redistributing surplus food.

Rival Woolworths will ban plastic straws by the end of this year, while its program to remove plastic wrap from fruit and veges will be expanded to include another 80 products.

It's also searching for a partner to help reduce food waste.

"While we've made progress in reducing the amount of plastic in our stores, supported recycling labelling initiatives, and made improvements in energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing and reducing food waste, we know that more needs to be done to meet our customers' expectations," chief executive Brad Banducci said.

Greenpeace Australia welcomed the move by the retailers as a step in the right direction.

"People are infuriated by this. You only have to do a search on social media and see people enraged by apples wrapped in plastic, " a spokesman said.

"Plastic bags are used on average for seven minutes and then last for hundreds of years."

The step-up in the campaign against waste by Coles and Woolies comes a week after the European Union outlined plans to ban single-use plastic straws, cutlery and cotton buds.

The supermarket chains last July joined a push to rid Australia of disposable plastic bags, and set a deadline of June 30, 2018 for their stores to stop offering them to shoppers. Woolworths later brought forward that deadline to June 20.

Queensland and Western Australia area also introducing state-wide bans on single-use plastic bags on July 1, bringing them into line with the ACT, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

Queensland rugby league great Mal Meninga is backing his state's ban.

"We cannot afford to stand by and let the damage caused by plastic shopping bags continue to happen," he said.

While Victoria is poised to follow suit NSW has refused to ban single-use plastic bags, arguing the moves by the supermarket chains will be enough to reduce plastic bag use.

Australian Associated Press