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Coles bins Stikeez and minis for good following criticism of plastic promotions

·3-min read

Coles has announced it will no longer give away plastic toys as it looks to become more sustainable and reduce its contribution to plastic waste.

The retailer has long been criticised for promotions such as its Stikeez and Little Shop ranges which were denounced for being environmentally damaging.

Stikeez were plastic characters in the shape of fruit and vegetables. The Little Shop range for children included mini Tim Tams, Vegemite, Nutella, Leggo’s pasta sauce jars and Oak chocolate milk cartons.

Coles said on Friday it was ending the promotions as part of its new sustainability strategy. The strategy, announced in March, includes targets to reduce the company’s carbon emissions and limit unnecessary plastic.

Related: ‘Single-use plastics’ to be phased out in Australia from 2025 include plastic utensils and straws

“Having recently stopped selling single-use plastic tableware, Coles has also reviewed the sustainability of its marketing campaigns and has committed to no longer give away plastic collectible toys,” it said in a statement.

The company’s chief marketing officer, Lisa Ronson, said while the toys had been popular in the past, a recent survey of customers found reducing waste and landfill was the number one concern they had when it came to environmental issues in retail.

She said large retailers needed to listen to customers whose priorities were changing.

“Coles has been in the lives and homes of Australians for more than 100 years and our unique position in Australia comes with responsibility,” she said.

Coles plans further changes, including a commitment to make the packaging on some of its most popular bakery items out of 100% recycled content in the 2022 financial year. It said it had also stopped using soaker pads in meat trays reducing landfill.

The Boomerang Alliance has long called for retailers to reduce their use of environmentally harmful plastics.

Director Jeff Angel said Friday’s announcement was welcome.

“The PR people tried to justify this practice by claiming they can be recycled, but it was a weak argument as inevitably the vast majority of the toys were either littered or dumped in landfill – with their environmental impacts lasting centuries,” he said.

Angel said there was more work to be done by retailers and governments on disposable items such as coffee cups and fruit and vegetable bags.

Related: 'A legacy of plastic waste': Coles launches new collectables series

“Single-use plastic has become so ingrained in the marketplace, that business, government and the community will need to keep up the pace on eliminating them, so we can stop the toxic tide of plastic pollution,” he said.

Plastic cutlery and straws are among the types of single-use plastics to be phased out in Australia from 2025 under a plan to reduce plastic waste.

A national meeting of environment ministers in April confirmed the phase-out would cover eight types of “problematic and unnecessary” plastic waste: lightweight plastic bags; plastic misleadingly labelled “degradable”; plastic utensils and stirrers; plastic straws; polystyrene food containers; polystyrene consumer goods packaging; and microbeads in personal care products.

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