Woolworths not ruling out letting shoppers bring containers for meats

Woolworths last year shut down reports it was considering letting shoppers bring their own containers for meat and fish. Source: Getty

Shoppers at Woolworths may soon be able to bring along their own containers under a new plan to cut plastic packaging. The supermarket giant is working on a trial to give customers the option to take home meat, seafood and deli items in their own containers.

The potential move would mirror a similar policy introduced by the UK’s fourth-largest supermarket Morrison’s, which rewards customers who bring their own containers to package meats and save on single-use plastic bags.

Woolworths last year shut down reports it was considering letting shoppers bring their own containers for meat and fish. However, the supermarket chain has now indicated it plans “to get a trial up and running soon”.

“At Woolworths, we’re always looking for ways to run our stores more sustainably,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Starts at 60. “Some of our customers have told us they’re keen to bring their own containers for deli, meat and seafood products.

“We’re engaging closely with food safety and trade measurement authorities on the idea and hopeful to get a trial up and running soon.”

Competitor Coles previously disregarded the idea: “Coles does not allow customers to bring in their own containers to use as it poses a health and safety risk. It also makes it very difficult for us to do a thorough investigation if a customer becomes ill and we are unsure where the container used came from.”

It is understood, the primary issue is food safety and potential contamination risks of bringing non-sterilised containers into meat, seafood and deli departments. 

There are has been mixed reaction online, with one Facebook user writing: “I don’t want someone’s possibly stinky containers near any food I buy from the deli please.”

Another added:”The first thing I thought before reading this was it poses a health and safety issue! I think Coles is making the better choice here.” While a third wrote: “Ridiculous idea. No wonder I shop at Coles.”

Others, however, support the idea, with one person commenting: “Great news, this has been done all over the world for centuries.”

The plan follows the decision by Coles and Woolworths last year to ban all plastic bags across Australia in hopes of also reducing waste in the country. Instead of offering free plastic bags, customers now have the choice of bringing their own in, or buying reusable ones ranging from 15 cents to $2.

The supermarkets have faced a lot of criticism for their decision, with statistics previously revealing one in five Aussies have admitted to stealing reusable bags from the checkout.

A survey by Canstar Blue, released late last year, found a significant number of Australians were struggling to adjust to the national plastic bag ban initiated by Coles and Woolworths in June 2018, with many stubborn shoppers refusing to fork out 15 cents for a reusable bag.

About 19 per cent of shoppers saw reusable bags as “fair game” and admitted to stealing them at the checkout. Canstar said the majority of the thieves are aged between 18-29.

Canstar Blue Editor Simon Downes told Starts at 60 that some Aussies had been struggling with the change and didn’t believe they should have to pay for something they previously got for free.

“It’s these people who clearly see reusable bags as fair game for them to just go ahead and steal,” he said. “I imagine that there is that resentment from some shoppers who are frustrated by it and just think well ‘I don’t way to pay for these, I’m just going to take them for free’.”

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