Home delivery problem Woolies needs to fix
TODAY was a big day. My first Woolworths delivery arrived bright and early this morning - puzzlingly, compete with a dozen new plastic bags and a kitchen bench covered with all the plastic that my fruit and veg came in.
I ordered 41 items, which cost me $152 (one of my smaller online shops for my growing family of five) and had selected the option to pay $1 for reusable bags, intrigued as to how my haul would arrive.
I was quite surprised to see how many bags there were, actually.
There were 12 bags in total, which seemed excessive as some bags had just a few small items in them, and were by no means packed to capacity.
In fact, I'm sure I had more bags than my bigger delivery last week - and interestingly, those bags were a lot smaller.
The new white bags are a much larger and sturdier than the old lightweight grey ones Woolies used to offer. The new ones boast they are made from at least 80 per cent recycled plastic.
That's great, but the point is, we don't need so many of them.
Woolies does have another option for people concerned about using too many bags - that is to have your groceries delivered to your kitchen bench directly.
But there are two big problems with this option.
First - you absolutely have to be home. This isn't the case with opting for the reusable bags.
Secondly - the alternate option is a lot more expensive than opting for the mounds of plastic I received. While I paid $1 for my pile of reusable bags, if I selected the crate to bench option I would be paying $3.50. Why? I already pay for home delivery. What's an extra few steps to my kitchen bench?
While I always reuse my plastic bags, the fact that I've got a huge pile of large, strong bags that might not fit my bin as well as the old type is frustrating.
And that wasn't the only plastic I received in my order.
My products were covered in useless plastic packaging.
It covered my daughter's kiwis. It wrapped my son's bruised bananas, and it encased our favourite crunchy red gala apples. It was holding a few loose zucchini. There was a plastic bag for six sad looking pears and another double-wrapped packet to hold three small avocados so firm I fear they will take a week to ripen. And they are all in, yep, you guessed it, another plastic bag.
Woolies withdrew thin, single-use plastic bags on Wednesday in the states where government bans were not already in place. That includes NSW, where I am. Coles and many IGA stores will follow suit on Sunday when the Victorian and Queensland governments enact bag bans, but unlike Woolies, Coles will not charge a bagless delivery fee.
Their customers will have the option of purchasing 15-cent reusable bags or having their groceries delivered in a crate for no extra charge (other than the standard delivery fee).
The crate presents its own problems though.
Not only do I have to be home (which I can't always guarantee), but I have to put everything away immediately.
With three little kids running around, that's not always possible either.
So I selected the 'reusable bags option - for the first time anyway.
Was I happy? Not really. Actually, not even close. I still received a huge amount of bags and I don't feel it was any better for the environment. After all the hype and anticipation, I have a house full of plastic wrapping to get rid of and a huge bundle of plastic bags to store somewhere until the next time I have to use them.
It was a lot of plastic, no matter how you spin it.
Maybe their packing will get more efficient, so less bags are used next time. Maybe they should have a cardboard box option like Harris Farm deliveries has been doing for years.
Maybe I have to plan my life so I am home to collect a crate-to-bench delivery - but if you addj $3.50 to the $9 or $12 delivery fee, suddenly online shopping isn't so cost-effective either.
Maybe they just need to filter the less-plastic ethos into their other products, and not just focus on the bags.
Maybe we as consumers need to fight back, and say that banning bags is a good start, but hasn't gone far enough.
I don't know what the answer is - but looking at my plastic-covered kitchen bench, I know the problem is far from being solved.
When contacted by news.com.au Woolworths said they had been pleased by overall customer response to their bag ban so far.
"The move will see us take 3.2 billion single-use plastic bags out of the system each year for the benefit of the environment, wildlife and local communities," a spokesman said.
"For home delivery orders, customers can choose if they want groceries delivered in reusable plastic bags made of at least 80 percent recycled material or via our new crate to bench service.
"With the new crate to bench service, orders are packed directly into our delivery crates, and then unpacked on to a customer's bench by a delivery driver when they arrive.
"This service comes with additional costs because it takes more time for the driver to complete and the fee reflects this.
When asked if they would adopt cardboard boxes for home deliverioes instead of bags he said: "We looked at a number of options including cardboard but there are quite a few logistical challenges."
"We'll be keeping a close eye on the feedback from our online customers in the weeks and months ahead and will be working hard to ensure we're meeting their expectations."