Australian supermarket giants cutting back on plastics

Australians will find fewer plastics on the shelves at most supermarkets as retailers bend to customer demands to reduce waste.

Retail giants Woolworths and Coles, which account for around 70 percent of the Australian supermarket trade, on Monday announced new goals to reduce plastic products and packaging in response to customers wanting a greener shopping experience.

Woolworths said all its stores in Australia and New Zealand will no longer sell plastic straws by the end of this year. It also will offer reusable shopping bags when it phases out plastic shopping bags on June 20, and will expand its program to remove plastic wrap from fruit and vegetable for another 80 products.

Coles has set a 2020 deadline to make its packaging recyclable and cut food waste by half.

Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday said he was delighted that Australia's largest supermarkets were taking robust action to phase out single-use plastic bags.

Coles has committed to phasing out single-use plastic bags as well as reducing plastic wrapping on fruit and vegies and to replacing meat and poultry product packaging with recycled and renewable materials.

"This means billions of these single-use plastic bags and other plastics will no longer take up space in landfill or harm our environment," Frydenberg said in a statement.

The Australian government is also working to cut down on waste produced by ensuring that all Australian packaging will be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier, he said.

Half of Australia's eight state and territories already ban single-use plastic shopping bags.

Another two states — Queensland and Western Australia — will join South Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory with state-wide bans from July 1.

But the most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria — where more than half the Australian population live — are resisting change.

The European Union has proposed banning plastic products, like straws, to reduce litter spoiling beaches and ocean beds.