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Coles is constantly exploring ways to protect our environment and investing in important environmental projects and partnerships to reduce our environmental impact.

We are focusing on waste reduction and recycling, including through improving efficiencies within our supply chain, looking at opportunities for energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as sustainable packaging. Click the links below to jump to a section.

Waste and recycling

Approximately 70 per cent of our total waste is recycled including our main sources of waste - cardboard, food and plastic. We are committed to diverting 90 per cent of all waste from landfill through a focus on reduction, reuse and recycling.


Food waste

Food waste is diverted to a number of streams including food rescue, use on farm, energy production, compost and landfill.

In June 2018, we made a public commitment to halve food waste in our supermarkets and to providing the equivalent of 100 million meals to Australians in need by 2020.

Through our national partnership with SecondBite, the majority of Coles supermarkets and many of our distribution centres donate fresh produce, meat, dairy and bakery items to more than 1,300 communities across Australia. More than 40 million kilograms of unsold edible food, equating to around 80 million meals, has been donated since the partnership began in 2011. More information about our partnership with SecondBite can be found on our national community partners page.

Some organic waste from supermarkets that cannot be directed to food rescue is sent to anaerobic digestion plants in Western Australia and New South Wales where it is converted into clean energy and certified compost.

We are also committed to reducing food losses in our supply chain by redirecting produce that cannot be sold whole to other value-added products. For example, some bananas that do not meet specifications are used to produce Coles Brand frozen banana pieces, banana bread and muffins. Cauliflower and broccoli are being used for frozen products or the recently-introduced rice alternative products such as broccoli and cauliflower rice. Other new products include zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles and sweet potato chips all which allow suppliers to use more of their crops that might otherwise have gone to waste.


REDcycle - soft plastic recycling

We are proud to offer REDcycle recycling bins in all Coles supermarkets. Through the program, Coles customers can recycle plastic bags and soft plastic packaging using specially marked bins at the front of stores.

Since the program began in 2011, Coles has diverted more than 542 million pieces of flexible plastic from landfill across Australia.

Customers can recycle a range of soft plastic packaging including bread bags, cereal bags and frozen food bags.

Types of soft plastics that can be recycled via REDcycle are:

  • Shopping bags including reusable 'green’ bags
  • Fresh fruit and veggie bags and wrappers
  • Bread bags
  • Cereal box liners
  • Biscuit wrappers and confectionery packaging
  • Rice and pasta packets and frozen food bags


Energy efficiency

Coles’ energy efficiency strategy is aimed at reducing energy use in heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Most of the energy consumed in stores is used for refrigeration, lighting and climate controls.

To reduce energy consumption from refrigeration we have installed night blinds on open refrigeration cases, installed anti-condensate heater controls on our glass door freezers so chilled food sections can run more efficiently and installed cool room controllers to optimise the way our cool rooms defrost ice build-up. We are also trialing technologies to improve the energy efficiency of refrigeration systems in existing stores.

We are also working on climate control to better manage fresh air in store and reduce air-conditioning, and we are installing LED lighting and automated lights. The adoption of automated lighting controls reduces lighting outside of trading hours.

Solar panels are operational on 27 of our supermarkets nationally.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Despite growing our store network, our carbon emissions have declined over the past five years due to a range of energy saving initiatives and our focus on reducing emissions from refrigerant gases.

Since 2009, Coles has reduced our greenhouse emissions by more than 30%, meeting our 2020 target for emissions reduction four years early in 2016.

To reduce emissions from refrigerant gases we are:

  • Continuing a refrigeration pipe replacement program
  • Replacing aging equipment
  • Transitioning to lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants
  • Piloting zero GWP refrigeration plants
  • Investing in leak detection technology and a leak detection team

Since 2009, our emissions from energy consumption have been reduced by 15% and from refrigerant use by 72%.

Sustainable packaging

We understand the important roles packaging plays in maintaining food safety, supporting product longevity and reducing food waste. At the same time, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and have implemented a Sustainable Packaging Policy.

The Policy commits us to working towards consumer packaging for Coles Brand products, fresh produce and meat that can be recycled in nationally available recycling systems or as part of Coles’ in-store recycling program. It also commits us to increasing the content of recycled material in Coles Brand consumer packaging and improving recycling communication to customers on packaging.

The Policy also provides direction for transport packaging which includes maximising the use of returnable reusable packaging and crates.

While the majority of Coles Brand products are now in recyclable packaging, by 2020 we will make packaging for all our products recyclable at kerbside or in store.


Product packaging

Since September 2014, 100 percent of Coles Brand water bottles have been made from recycled PET (rPET).


We are implementing the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), launched by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, PlanetArk and PREP Design, on Coles Brand products. The ARL uses a nationally consistent packaging assessment tool to determine the appropriate recycling label for different packaging components.

We are also working to reduce and optimise fresh produce packaging. While some packaging is required for transport, to support product longevity, maintain food safety and reduce food waste, Coles acknowledges there are areas where packaging can be reduced. We are actively working with our fresh produce suppliers to reduce the number of packaging layers, light-weight packaging materials, ensure all packaging is recyclable either at home or through REDcycle bins in store, and in some cases remove packaging.

During FY18, we announced we would transition to Plantic™ packaging for a wide range of Coles Brand fresh meat products. The packaging is both recyclable and made entirely from a combination of recycled and renewable materials. Plantic’s™ trays are made from recycled PET (rPET) with a thin layer of Plantic’s™ renewable barrier material, made from corn starch, which helps keeps the meat fresh. During the recycling process, the thin starch layer washes away, allowing the rPET tray to be recycled again. Coles Brand fresh beef mince, pork mince and lamb mince has used recyclable packaging since 2014.

We will continue to look for other opportunities to include recycled content in Coles Brand product packaging. Since 2014, Coles Brand still water has been packaged in bottles made of 100 per cent rPET and in FY18 we introduced new heavy-duty reusable carry bags made from 80 per cent recycled content and which are also recyclable in store through REDcycle bins. Coles is also introducing fresh produce bags made from 30 per cent recycled content that can also be recycled in-store though REDcycle.

Transport packaging

We have implemented a program in our fresh food supply chain to replace waxed cardboard boxes and polystyrene with reusable plastic crates. We now have six million reusable plastic crates in circulation with over 400 suppliers. Seven different crate types are used which are suitable for a range of products including fruit, vegetables, eggs, poultry, red meat, frozen vegetables, yoghurt and deli items.


Single-use plastic carry bags

We encourage our customers to use reusable bags when they shop at Coles and offer a range of reusable bags for customers to purchase, including the 15 cent Coles Better Bag which is made from 80 percent recycled material and has been designed to be reused.

Our range of reusable bags include bags designed by Australian schoolchildren. Each of these bags will also support one of the following community organisations - SecondBite, Guide Dogs, Little Athletics and Clean Up Australia. Find out more about the winning designs and designers here.

We also offer the REDcycle program in all stores where customers can recycle bags and other soft plastic. More information can be found in section on REDcycle.

For more information about Coles Online please click here.



Microbeads are small plastic particles used as exfoliants in cosmetic products like facial scrubs, soaps and toothpastes. No bigger than a grain of sand, these tiny particles have come under scrutiny from scientists and environmental groups due to their ability to pass through wastewater treatment plants and contaminate waterways. In 2015, we met our voluntary commitment to remove microbeads from Coles Brand products. This was two years ahead of plan.