Coles says these toys promote healthy eating. I say that’s rubbish



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Carla Liuzzo, Queensland University of Technology

As a parent, I find it so frustrating to take my children shopping, reusable bags in hand, only to be offered plastic toys at the checkout. It’s an incredibly confusing message to be sending kids. And it seems Coles is confused too.

Last year the company stated it wants to be “Australia’s most sustainable supermarket”. But with last week’s relaunch of “Stikeez” – yet another plastic collectables range off the back of their Little Shop promotion – Coles is showing dogged commitment to unsustainable marketing.

Stikeez are 24 plastic characters (plus four rare ones) in the shape of fruit and vegetables, aimed at encouraging kids to eat healthy food.




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After petitions against previous plastic “mini” campaigns by Coles and Woolworths, Coles will make the Stikeez characters returnable in store for recycling.

But this misses the point. Coles is generating waste needlessly in the first place. Surely it’s time to move beyond plastic freebies as a way of boosting sales?

Coles sent almost 100,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in 2019.
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Irresponsible marketing

We have a waste problem in this country. Australians are the third highest producers of waste per person, after the US and Canada. Some councils are having to stockpile plastic, there’s a federal plan to phase out exporting waste overseas and we have high rates of contamination of recyclables.

And Coles, one of Australia’s supermarket giants, sent almost 100,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in 2019. That’s 274 tonnes per day.




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But after their Little Shop collection provoked a consumer backlash, Coles took steps to reduce waste generated from their latest campaign. Stikeez wrapping contains partially recycled content, and Coles is providing in-store collection points where Stikeez can be returned and repurposed into shoe soles, in partnership with Save Our Soles.

Certainly this is preferable to throwing the items into the rubbish, but repurposing the plastic is not without environmental cost. Fuel is required to transport the waste and the process of repurposing plastic uses energy.

What’s more, asking shoppers to bring back their Stikeez puts the onus on consumers, rather than the company, to dispose of the items responsibly. And as we’ve seen by the low rates of recycling of soft plastics on a national level – recycling soft plastics is also offered in store – it’s far more convenient to throw items in the bin.

Coles haven’t publicised data about how many collectables they will produce.
Alpha/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Coles is also missing the point of the consumer backlash. When a company already generates huge quantities of waste in its core business and says it wants to be Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, it cannot generate additional waste on plastic marketing.

Boosting the bottom line

Last year Coles’ Little Shop put many parents offside. But Coles earned around A$200 million in extra revenue as a result of the original promotion.

Coles reported an increase in the first quarter of 2019 in sales of 5% and gained a competitive advantage over rival Woolworths, which managed only 1.5% in the same period. Obviously the bump in sales was too hard for Coles to resist.

It’s difficult to get an accurate figure on what waste this latest Stikeez campaign will generate. Coles haven’t publicised data about how many collectables they will produce. And waste contractors to Coles haven’t revealed how many collectables ended up in landfill last year, though there have been reports of Little Shop items ending up on beaches in Bali.

Last year, Coles said 94% of Little Shop collectables were either kept or given to family or friends. But University of Tasmania marketing expert Louise Grimmer discredited this data, saying it was not based on any meaningful longitudinal research that would allow such claims.

Stikeez undermines Coles’ sustainability efforts

If organisations produce plastic for marketing purposes, it’s difficult to see how we can achieve plastic recycling rates of 70% by 2025. This target – set by federal and state governments and which Coles has signed on to meet – also stipulates the removal of “problematic and unnecessary” single use plastic packaging.

Coles’ Little Shop promotion faced petitions from people concerned about the plastic waste it generated.
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Federal Assistant Minister for Waste, Trevor Evans, said finding a sustainable way to manage plastics was a major challenge and requires a coordinated effort. As a powerful household brand, Coles must unequivocally be part of this effort.




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Coles’ environmental policy says it’s “committed to doing business in an environmentally responsible manner”. But plastic freebies fly in the face of this policy.

Better waste regulation

Voluntary initiatives for companies to reduce packaging and plastic waste, which Coles have signed on to, have not produced meaningful results.

Currently only one-third of all plastic packaging in Australia is recycled.

Overseas countries have moved away from voluntary frameworks to more structured and enforceable regulations to reduce plastic production and waste. In fact, Europe voted to ban single use plastics last year.

As long as Australia lags on waste regulation, organisations such as Coles will continue to contravene their own environmental policies.


The Conversation contacted Coles for comment. Its response is as follows:

Customers have told us that they use Stikeez as a fun tool to encourage kids to eat more types of fresh foods. The collectibles form part of the Coles Fresh 5 Challenge which encourages kids to eat all the Five Food Groups daily. We made changes to the Stikeez campaign this year to ensure it’s more environmentally sustainable.

Stikeez collectibles, including those customers have from last year, can now be recycled at all Coles supermarkets. We have partnered with Australian recycling group Save our Soles so that Stikeez can be recycled through the same process that is used to recycle footwear in Australia since 2010 to create useful products like anti-fatigue mats, gym matting, retail flooring and carpet underlay.The Conversation

Carla Liuzzo, Sessional Lecturer, School of Business, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ministry reports thousands of Karen deaths in Myanmar


Atrocities are mounting in Burma–the country now known as Myanmar. Thousands of people have been killed by the military-led government. And many human rights workers say there’s no end in sight, reports MNN.

President of Vision Beyond Borders Patrick Klein just returned from the border of Myanmar and Thailand and says the situation is desperate. "The government seems like it’s intent on genocide. 500,000 people have died already. They say it surpasses Darfur because they document more than 3,300 villages that have been completely burned to the ground."

According to Klein, this is a strategic political move. "The government is trying to get rid of everybody who is in opposition to this current military regime. So, it’s not just the Karen, but the Karen seem to be receiving the brunt of it."

The issue has been addressed by the Harvard Law School’s report, "Crimes in Burma," but the rest of the world is ignoring it. Klein says, "It’s baffling to us because we can’t figure it out. Nobody seems to know what’s going on. Nobody seems to be interested. When we talk, people in the States say, ‘Really? That’s happening in Burma? Well, we need to know that.’"

I asked Klein if he thinks it’s genocide. "I heard one of the Burmese generals say, ‘By the year 2010’ (which isn’t that far away) ‘there will be no more Karen people left. We’re going to wipe them off the face of the earth. The only ones you’ll see will be in the photographs in the museums.’"

Klein says the international media seems to be ignoring the situation.

He says the Myanmar military isn’t the only offender. Burmese orphans, refugees in bordering Thailand, are being threatened by Thai officials. "The Thai border police want to send them back into Burma. There are land mines everywhere. They’re killing these people. And they want to send these kids back because they’re kind of working with the government, underhandedly, to get money kickbacks from the government to send these kids back in, to slaughter them."

Klein says the stories of evil abound. "We heard a story about an eight-year-old boy who was told by the Burmese military, in front of his family, to climb a tree and climb as high as he could. They held him at gun point. He climbed as high as he could, and they told him to jump down, or they would shoot [his family]. So, he jumped to his death in front of his family."

Vision Beyond Borders was able to take in rice, medical supplies, toys for Christmas, and Bibles. Klein says, "Even in the midst of all these atrocities, many people are getting saved. So we want to keep providing Bibles."

Klein says nobody expects the situation to improve. "The elections are coming up in Burma in March. They believe 50,000 to 100,000 more refugees will come into Thailand before the election, and probably 150,000 more after the election."

Christian actor Kirk Cameron has agreed to be the narrator for a documentary on the situation in Burma. "We want to get that out around the nation," says Klein, "to call the churches to pray and ask God to intervene in the country to bring down this wicked government."

Report from the Christian Telegraph