AUSTRALIA –  The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and the Boomerang Alliance have released an independent audit on supermarket plastic use that found Aldi to be at the forefront of surveyed supermarkets’ efforts to reduce plastic packaging.

The German-owned company scored a 21.7 percent reduction in plastic on fresh produce and was the only supermarket to enforce sustainable packaging guidelines on its suppliers.

Coles came in second with 1.5 stars, having been named the strongest performer on reuse implementing trials such as a reusable box for online orders in Tasmania.

Coming in third was Woolworths scoring a measly one star, who was ‘unwilling or unable’ to provide evidence of progress against most targets.

Zero stars were handed to Metcash, owner of franchises Foodland and IGA, trailing way behind on national sustainability efforts with little evidence it has worked with its retailers to reduce the use of plastic.

AMCS found supermarkets are only applying plastic reduction targets to own-brand products, not all the other brands they sell.

It was found that plastic-wrapped fresh fruit and vegetables were also often cheaper than loose produce.

Claimed to be the first independent audit on supermarket plastic use, Unwrapped was prepared by the AMCS and the Boomerang Alliance by utilizing data from public reports and volunteer shopper surveys to evaluate the supermarkets’ 2022 performance across five categories.

The methodology was created with the support of environmental groups, including Clean Up Australia, WWF Australia, and the Environmental Investigation Agency.

The majority of the score (80%) was determined by three key practical measures, plastic reduction (40%), recycling (20%), and reusables (20%).

The remaining 20% consisted of two policy categories, comprising transparency (10%) and policy, planning, and governance (10%).

AMCS plastics campaign manager Shane Cucow said: “Plastic has been around for only about 80 years, yet our oceans are already choking in plastic, killing our marine life and even turning up in our food.

“An estimated 11 million tonnes of plastic waste enter our oceans annually, and that figure is expected to triple by 2040 if we don’t take action.

“Plastic packaging is one of the worst offenders, with soft plastics, food packaging and beverage litter accounting for nearly 70% of all plastics found by Clean Up Australia volunteers, it’s time to get serious about cutting back on soft plastics and other hard-to-recycle packaging.”

Most supermarkets were hesitant to publicly release data on their packaging footprint, highlights the report.