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Environment groups tell shoppers to reject return of plastic Little Shop

17 July 2019 at 2:32 pm
Maggie Coggan
Conservation groups are urging consumers to fight back against the relaunch of a Coles promotion which saw millions of small plastic toys given away for free.   

Maggie Coggan | 17 July 2019 at 2:32 pm


Environment groups tell shoppers to reject return of plastic Little Shop
17 July 2019 at 2:32 pm

Conservation groups are urging consumers to fight back against the relaunch of a Coles promotion which saw millions of small plastic toys given away for free.    

The relaunch of the Little Shop line has sparked a widespread backlash, calling into question the company’s stated sustainability efforts such as the ban of light-weight plastic bags last year.   

Coles released a new line of 30 mini plastic replicas on Wednesday, which includes Arnott’s Barbecue Shapes, Campbell’s tomato soup, Vegemite, and Heinz baked beans. Shoppers will receive one free toy for every $30 they spend.   

The first promotion in 2018 boosted supermarket sales to record levels, and quickly gained traction with some replicas sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. 

But the hype soon died down, and many of the toys were donated in droves or ended up in landfill. It was also reported that environment groups started to find them during beach and waterway clean-ups.   

Jeff Angel, executive director of the Boomerang Alliance, told Pro Bono News the relaunch of the “plastic litter trinkets” could do serious damage to the supermarket’s brand if consumers made enough noise. 

“Coles is obviously sensitive to consumers and I think those consumers should use all avenues to make their views clear and continue to ridicule this vacuous marketing campaign,” Angel said.  

Terri-Ann Johnson, the CEO of Clean Up Australia, said the best action a consumer could take was to refuse the toys at the checkout. 

“If people don’t take them, then they’re going to have lots of stock just sitting around that they can’t get rid of. That would be a pretty clear indication to them that this is not a successful promotion,” Johnson told Pro Bono News.       

Since the announcement several petitions have launched, calling on Coles to rethink the promotion, and for consumers to boycott the supermarket altogether.  

Amber Derksen, who created one of the petitions, called the promotion hypocritical. 

“They have just implemented the ban of plastic bags and now they want to introduce more plastic and market it to children?… [The toys] will only end up in landfill contributing to plastic pollution,” Derksen said.   

Johnson said timing the launch in the middle of Plastic Free July was ill-thought-out and inconsistent with the company’s previous sustainability efforts. 

“They’re encouraging people to replace single-use plastic bags… but then release another series of miniature items which might be collectible, but are also going to just sit in cupboards and are going to outlive us all. We just don’t really see the point,” she said.

A spokesperson for Coles told the Guardian the packaging could be recycled. 

“The campaign only runs for a limited time and customers are able to recycle the wrappers at their nearest Coles through our in-store RedCycle program. For Coles online deliveries, mini collectible packaging can be returned to the driver, and recycled through our RedCycle program,” the spokesperson said. 

Angel said environment groups should now be looking very closely at the stated sustainability claims the company made. 

“Given their record with banning plastic bags, the continued insistence on putting out Little Shop litter items into the environment doesn’t make sense,” he said.  

Johnson added it was important for conservation groups to focus on the positives of Plastic Free July and to promote plastic-free alternatives available to consumers. 

“It’s really important to positively reinforce better behavior, and in the case of this particular Coles campaign we’re just going to ignore it,” she said.  

“We are also just going to keep encouraging people to say no to any single-use plastic items they don’t want.”   

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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  • Sophie Bartho says:

    Hear hear – I cannot believe big brands continue to create this endless crap. Surely some good marketers can find new, innovative, non destructive ways to create the pester power they’re after with these gimmicky campaigns. They need to find some substance and demonstrate your true CSR, please!

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