WOOLWORTHS: Swaps Out Plastic Packaging


Experimentation and innovation are the driving forces behind BioPak’s mission to create sustainable, environmentally-friendly packaging, but the success of this goal is a collaborative effort. Since 2018, BioPak has been collaborating with the Australian supermarket Woolworths and a number of their preferred fruit and vegetable producers and packers to develop our range of award-winning bagasse bakery trays and fresh produce trays.

The Challenge

Woolworths has 995 stores across Australia, so changing their packaging from conventional plastic to compostable BioPak packaging makes a huge difference to their environmental impact and emissions. 

Woolworths has one very important job; getting food safely to their supermarkets for you to enjoy. But food doesn’t magically appear from a farm to your supermarket shelves, it requires a careful process of transportation and often the safest option to transport your food, isn’t the most friendly to our planet. We’re talking about plastic derived from fossil fuels. It’s predicted that by 2050, plastic production will triple and be responsible for up to 13% of our planet's total carbon budget. 

Almost all states and territories across Australia have made a commitment to phase out single-use plastics by 2025 or sooner, and Woolworths has already made a head start by switching some of their key packaging to BioPak’s carbon neutral, plant-based and compostable packaging.

The Solution

BioPak carbon-neutral, plant-based packaging is designed to reduce negative environmental harm and increase positive community impact.

We designed Woolworths award-winning Bakery Trays with sugarcane fibre (bagasse), a by-product of the sugar refining industry that is certified home compostable to Australian Standards (AS5810) and deemed recyclable by PREP.

BioPak has also supplied Woolworth’s stores in New Zealand (Countdown) and Australia a complete range of sustainable picnic-ware including paper cups, clear cups, Cutlery, Napkins, paper straws and plates.

Together, BioPak and Woolworths are also driving innovation across their fresh produce ranges to reduce the amount of regular plastic used in packaging – we supply sugarcane pulp trays to a number of Woolworth's fresh fruit and vegetable farmers and packers.

Our packaging is sustainably sourced and ethically manufactured in production facilities certified to ISO14001 environmental standards; this ensures the production facilities implement processes and procedures to protect the local environment in which they operate.

Woolworths Group required two main features for their packaging; planet-friendly materials and durability. Fresh produce from strawberries and cherry tomatoes to potatoes are fragile and when damaged, are unfortunately not fit for sale. Other factors that must be considered when designing food packaging are; stackability, sturdiness, the ability to hold liquids, and product display. Packing also extends the life of produce.

Our sugarcane packaging can be heat-sealed, flow wrapped and shrink-wrapped, suitable for a range of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Result

Woolworths has made some strong commitments for the next 10 years: changing 100 per cent of their own brand packaging to recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023, halving the use of new (virgin) plastic packaging by 2024 and using an average of 60 per cent recycled material in packaging by 2025. So how is BioPak helping?

Fresh Produce Trays/ Vegetable Trays

As the fresh produce industry moves to become more sustainable growers, packers and retailers are looking for alternatives to plastic packing. This is not simple, as fresh produce puts many demands on its packaging. It has to be sturdy to protect the product so it lasts longer, it has to be moisture repellent and able to withstand the rigours of the cold-chain and lastly it has to look good for the consumer.

Kapiris Bros

Kapiris Bros have rolled out an innovative initiative in sustainable packaging practices by replacing plastic trays and punnets with home compostable sugarcane pulp solutions. Woolworths have adopted this design and made it mandatory for all their stores nationwide. This means that the customer can dispose of their pre-packaged Gourmet and Roma tomato trays and punnets at home, along with their organic fruit and vegetable waste.

Hydro Produce

Hydro Produce is the market leader in the fresh produce farming, packing and supply sector across Australia. By replacing plastic containers with compostable ones, Hydro Produce has reduced CO2 emissions by 60 tonnes and is saving 167,000 kilograms of plastic waste from landfill and oceans each year.

Costa Group

Costa Group saw the need for change, and took action to reduce their single-use plastic trays. Making the switch to a custom BioPak solution for their sweet berry truss tomatoes was a simple step that made a big difference, especially for fresh produce where large quantities of single-use packaging are used. They used a heat seal solution that has reduced their plastic requirements by 90%.

Blue Harvest

Working with the great team at Blue Harvest, we have created the world’s first custom-moulded oyster tray made from sugarcane. Up until now, the only solution for oysters has been single-use plastic trays but given the challenges plastics are causing for our oceans, Blue Harvest reached out to BioPak for a solution. Sugarcane is a rapidly-renewable material that would have been burnt otherwise, can help the fresh produce industry avoid plastics and reduce their environmental footprint. These trays are certified home and industrially compostable – a real game-changer for the aquaculture sector.

Bakery Trays

BioPak also designed Woolworths award-winning Bakery Trays with sugarcane fibre (bagasse), a by-product of the sugar refining industry that is certified home compostable to Australian Standards (AS5810) and deemed recyclable by PREP.

Using BioPak compostable Bakery Trays in one year enables Woolworths an average to:

  • Offset 3,213 tonnes of carbon emissions — which is equivalent to driving a new car around the world 302 times
  • Avoid 1,209 tonnes of plastic being made and the 1,184,835 litres of crude oil used to make it
  • Woolworths has also offered an opportunity for their customers to divert the trays from landfill and create compost instead. If all trays were composted they would:
  • Create 846 tonnes of compost (that's 58,032 bags of compost

Picnic & Partyware

To make our range even more accessible to Woolworths customers, BioPak supplies all stores with our complete range of sustainable picnic-ware including paper cups, clear cups, cutlery, napkins, paper straws and plates.

The range includes paper cups with certified industrial compostable PLA lining, and certified home compostable plates, bowls and trays, alongside FSC™ (License code FSC™ C110879) certified napkins and wooden cutlery.

In 2021 this range will have have no plastic wrapping – all cartons will be packed in to FSC™ boxes.

In New Zealand, Countdown has converted Millions of compostable picnic ware products from fossil-fuel based plastics over the past year and thereby offset 391 tonnes of carbon.

BioPak Woolworths’ Supplier of the Year

In December 2020, BioPak was awarded the prestigious Woolworths Sustainability Supplier of the Year in recognition of our ongoing efforts to reduce packaging and we couldn't be more excited.

“It is an honour to be acknowledged by Woolworths as a business showcasing excellence in sustainability. Their commitment to engaging us to innovate sustainable solutions was the catalyst to making real change! Woolworths leads an industry waiting for change to “just happen”, they took on the responsibility to force a change in habits that have a real environmental impact`` said Gary Smith, CEO BioPak.

Interpreting exact specifications and performance requirements for large-volume custom products is a specialised skill. To really drill down into the technical details of a product, without losing sight of overall design and user experience, is a challenge the BioPak Creative and Industrial Design teams understand all too well. Our vision is to provide solutions that capture not only the environmental challenge but also the specific industry and material challenges to find that perfect, uncompromising solution for our partners.