Woolworths Group is considering any potential impact of the current unavailability of the instore soft plastics recycling program on our sustainability goals. Our ambition remains to make our own brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or compostable, and we are working through soft plastics recycling solutions as part of an industry and government taskforce.


Our customers tell us that one of their top concerns is packaging waste; plastic waste, in particular. We are focused on eliminating plastic wherever possible, and working towards closing the loop by encouraging recycling through design, technology and clear communication to our customers and suppliers. 

The number one challenge to our business in plastics packaging continues to be fruit and vegetables. More than any other product category, packaging is a critical part of food safety and quality, protecting produce in transit, extending shelf life and reducing food waste. 

In seeking to positively impact our planet, we are partnering with industry to reduce the use of virgin plastic and increase the amount of recycled content in our own brand packaging, while making it easier for our customers to recycle and influencing our value chain to do the same.

We continue to trial innovative solutions in this space. 

In April 2022 South Australia became the first state where our supermarkets introduced compostable fruit and vegetable bags, available in all 67 stores across the state.

Early 2022 saw us announce the phasing out of Woolworths 15-cent plastic shopping bags in Western Australia, the first major supermarket to do so ahead of new state legislation banning a variety of plastic shopping bags from July 2022.


Woolworths Group is working towards transitioning our own brand ranges to recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging. As of February 2023, we have reduced virgin plastic packaging by more than 12,000 tonnes, through targeted initiatives, from our baseline, this is equivalent to 80 million apples.

We continue to drive our commitments on our own brand packaging including:

  • 100 percent of own brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or compostable 
  • Halve the use of new (virgin) plastic packaging (by weight against baseline) 
  • Using an average of 60 percent recycled material in packaging 
  • Providing more refillable and reusable packaging options for products in our operations.

We have also updated our own brand products with the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), making it easy for customers to see which elements can be recycled.  With the ARL already displayed on 72 percent of products where packaging is within the control of Woolworths Group in Australia. 

To achieve our goal of making packaging more sustainable, we’re committed to collaborating with our trading partners, government and industry to reduce waste and transition our business to a circular economy.

Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Plastics Pact (ANZPAC)

In May 2021, we became a founding member of the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands Plastics Pact (ANZPAC), which brings the industry, at every level of the supply chain, together in the pursuit of a shared set of plastic reduction targets and whose mission is “Together, through shared knowledge, investment and industry-led innovation, we will implement solutions tailored to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands region.” Woolworths Group’s commitments, as outlined in our Sustainability Plan 2025, align with the targets set by ANZPAC. We see working together as an entire industry, and region, as critical to identifying and implementing solutions to reduce plastic waste. 

Collaborating to reduce hard to recycle materials

We not only want to improve our own brand packaging but influence our whole value chain to explore more sustainable solutions. To this end, in 2021, we launched the ‘Woolworths Group – Packaging Preferred Materials List and Format Guidelines’. 

Developed in consultation with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, we have shared it with our own brand and vendor branded suppliers to support their packaging plans by considering problematic and preferred packaging materials. 

The Guidelines provide a helpful tool as we work towards phasing out the hardest to recycle materials from all packaging by 2025 in line with the Australian Government’s 2025 National Packaging Targets. 

The Guidelines categorises packaging materials based on how easily recyclable they are:

  • ‘Red’ = avoid using since customers cannot easily recycle. Phase out by 2025. For example, carbon black plastic, cardboard coated with wax. 
  • ‘Amber’ = when functional requirements mean ‘Green’ materials are not an option. For example, coloured rigid plastics, liquid paper board. 
  • ‘Green’ = packaging materials and characteristics which are widely recyclable in Australia and New Zealand. For example, PET, clear glass, corrugated cardboard.

Samsara and Woolworths

One of Woolworths most exciting partnerships is with enviro-tech company Samsara, of which it is a co-founder. Samsara uses technology, discovered by researchers from Australian National University, in which an enzyme is used to break down existing plastics (e.g. bottles) into their basic building blocks so that they can be reused in the plastics production process as if they were virgin plastic. 

Woolworth’s circular economy and innovation team, W360, is working closely with Samsara to take its technology from the lab to Woolworths supermarkets, with Samsara packaging expected to hit shelves in the next two years. The medium-term goal is for Woolworths to help scale Samsara’s capabilities to a point where it becomes a supplier of this technology to other retailers and suppliers.

In line with our Woolworths Group Sustainability Plan 2025 as well as current and forthcoming legislative changes, Woolworths Group will cease the sale, supply or distribution of any product or packaging that contains oxo-degradable plastics by 1 March 2022 nationally in Australia, and by 1 October 2022 in New Zealand.

To support this action, the Woolworths Group Oxo-degradable Plastics Policy was launched in February 2022. We have also have released an updated problematic and preferred packaging materials list and it’s great to see that many suppliers have already removed it from products and packaging, in line with our position on problematic materials.

For our progress against this goal, see our 2022 Sustainability Report. For more information on our metrics, see our 2022 Sustainability Report Appendix.