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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 focused on innovating and improving our diversion and recycling programs across our business to improve this number.


Food waste

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

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 communities across Australia. More than 34 million kilograms of unsold edible food, equating to around 68.5 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.

In Western Australia more than 50 stores send organic waste, including out-of-date bakery items, to a digestion plant in Jandakot where it is converted into clean energy and compost.

We are also working to reduce 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

Coles' customers can recycle plastic bags and a wide range of other soft plastic packaging that cannot be recycled through most household kerbside recycling services.

Under the program, we provide REDcycle recycling bins for soft plastics at all Coles supermarkets. Customers can recycle plastic bags and soft plastic packaging using specially marked bins at the front of our stores. The plastic is then recycled and converted into new products, including outdoor furniture.

Since the program began in 2011, Coles has diverted more than 542 million pieces of flexible plastic, or 2.1 million kg, from landfill across Australia. Customers can recycle:

  • 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.

While we increased the number of supermarkets by 14 and liquor and convenience stores by 30 in FY 2017 (with the total floor area increasing by more than 3.7 percent) we were able to reduce our total electricity consumption by 1.3 percent, compared with the previous year.

In FY 2017, Coles invested more than $15 million in energy efficiency projects, equating to more than 1,000 installations. These projects included LED lighting retrofits, improved hot water controls, upgrades in electrical infrastructure and solar power installations.

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 trialling 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 seven supermarkets, with 17 currently under construction and a further three to be installed by the end of FY18. Solar is now a standard feature of new stores in the future.


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 highlights the importance of looking for opportunities to increase the content of recycled material in Coles Brand consumer packaging and improving recycling communication to customers on pack.

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


Consumer packaging

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


We have a program to move product packaging out of expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is sometimes called polystyrene foam, including fresh produce and meat packaging.

While EPS is technically recyclable there are a limited number of sorting and recycling facilities in Australian meaning it is generally not accepted in household kerbside recycling services.

In 2016, we had phased out the use of EPS trays for fresh produce. EPS is currently used in a small amount of Coles’ meat packaging, when meat is packed in stores.

Since 2014, Coles has used Plantic™R to package Coles Brand fresh beef mince, pork mince and lamb mince. Plantic™R has renewable raw material content as well as using recycled PET (rPET) and is compatible with PET recycling streams which means it can be recycled in kerb side collection.


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 250 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.

We are the only Australian supermarket that owns and operates its own crate business. We have invested significant capital into this initiative and in FY 2017, this resulted in a reduction of 32,000 tonnes of cardboard and expanded polystyrene (ESP) for Coles supermarkets.


Single-use plastic bags

We removed single use plastic shopping bags across all Coles businesses on 1 July 2018. The move will bring our stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia in line with Tasmania, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, where Coles already complies with bans on single use bags. Please click here for more information. For more information about what these changes mean for you when shopping online with Coles please click here.

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

From 5 June, our range of reusable bags will include bags designed by Australian schoolchildren during our bag design competition. 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 customer can recycle bags and other soft plastic. More information can be found in section on REDcycle.



In 2015, we met our voluntary commitment to remove microbeads from Coles Brand products. This was two years ahead of plan.