Furious consumers have attacked Coles for giving away toy plastic replicas of its grocery products after banning plastic bags to protect the environment.
Clean Up Australia says Coles is squandering consumer goodwill from its bag ban, and the promotion sends a mixed message about where the retailer stands on limiting plastic waste.
Coles is giving away a collectable range of 30 mini products, from Vegemite and Nutella jars and bunches of bananas, and it’s also selling plastic lined cases to store them in.
Environmentally-conscious consumers have vented their anger on social media, saying it’s a baffling move after the retailer phased out its free single-use plastic shopping bags.
They’ve also ridiculed the retailer’s online response, including that the toys are designed to be kept and collected, not thrown away.
“Coles do you imagine people will collect these and keep them forever,” Kate Roberts posted on the Coles Facebook page.
Blair Christianson wrote: “You have no idea of the future handling of these items in terms of whether customers horde them or eventually throw them out to landfill.”
Coles says shoppers can refuse to accept the toys, which are given away with every $30 spent. It’s also advised shoppers the plastic wrappers the replicas come in can be recycled.
But Clean Up Australia managing director Terrie-Ann Johnson says there’s no doubt the limited-time promotion will add to the nation’s plastic waste.
“You’re not going to keep these for a long period of time – they’ll last as long as the child’s boredom level,” she told AAP.
She said Coles was sending mixed messages to customers in the wake of its bag ban.
“They’ve worked hard on that messaging and now to come out with something like this – it’s just so inconsistent, and it’s fairly questionable as to why.”
Coles was asked how many individual mini grocery items, and storage folders, have been ordered for the promotion.
It pointed to people on selling complete sets of the toys on eBay as evidence the items won’t necessarily end up in landfill.
“We know that customers are keeping the mini collectables and accessories, reusing them on a regular basis or sharing them with their friends and family,” a Coles spokesperson said.
“Whilst the mini collectables and accessories are not made from recyclable materials, our customers and enjoying and keeping them for the future which means they aren’t heading to landfill.”