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‘Cheap’, ‘exploitative’: Woolworths, Coles cop backlash for plastic collectables

Not all Aussies are fans of Woolworths' and Coles' plastic toy collectables. (Source: futurelandfill.org, Woolworths)

Woolworths’ toy collectables, ‘Ooshies’, has had a fair share of the spotlight in Australian news recently, not least for the price tag on some eye-wateringly expensive Ooshies.

And before that, it was Coles’ ‘Little Shoppers’ promotion that gripped Aussie grocery shoppers.

But the toys are made of plastic – and thousands of Australians have now had enough of the environmentally unfriendly toys.

A new campaign, ‘Future Landfill’, has attacked the major supermarkets for their “cheap” promotions and called for a ban on the plastic collectible toys.

The futurelandfill.org website features the recognisable Lion King Ooshies – but they have been designed to sit amongst a background of waste.

(Source: futurelandfill.org)
(Source: futurelandfill.org)

“With a total disregard for the delicate balance of our ecosystems, Woolworths has manufactured an ungodly number of cheap plastic toys in a bid to get you to spend more of your money in their stores,” the futurelandfill.org website stated.

The toys are a “fad”, to be replaced by another one in a few months, but the impact on the environment “will go on long after you, your kids, and their kids have completed their own circles of life”.

(Source: futurelandfill.org)

The website criticised supermarkets for their “short term mindset” and urged Australian shoppers to use the #futurelandfill hashtag on their social media accounts and sign the change.org petition.

“We're not recommending people boycott Coles and Woolies, but we do recommend they refuse the ‘free’ Ooshies at the checkout,” a spokesperson for the Future Landfill told Yahoo Finance.

‘Wasteful’, ‘manipulative’, ‘exploitative’: Change.org petition

Supermarkets should be banned from manufacturing “plastic toys with no permanent recycling plan in place”, according to the campaign’s change.org petition.

“It’s wasteful, manipulative, and specifically targeted at children.”

“It's also being done by stores who are ripping off farmers and telling us they're trying to reduce waste. These toys are future landfill!”

A Woolworths Lion King Ooshies sitting on top of a bottle in landfill, with Sydney Tower in the distance. (Source: futurelandfill.org)

Shoppers can only get the collectible toys if their purchase reaches hit a minimum spend, which the petition argues “further lure[s] children into the mindset of needing these” and adding strain on those who take children grocery shopping.

“It's evil and exploitative on every level,” the petition said.

“They're branded deals. It's wasteful. If it's not discouraged, this is will only continue to be a method grocery stores use to create profit and sales.”

At the time of publishing, the petition had hit over 3,000 signatures.

The fine print

Woolworths’ Lion King Ooshies are actually recyclable.

The major supermarket has struck up a partnership with US-based recycling company TerraCycle to help recycle the plastic toys.

“If for any reason, you no longer want to keep your Lion King Ooshie, you can now drop them off at your local Woolworths for recycling,” said the TerraCycle website.

But a sentence in small-font on the website reveals that only Ooshies that are returned to Woolworths by the last day of September will be recycled. That’s less than two months.

The recycling scheme for Woolworths' Ooshies only lasts for two months. (Source: Yahoo Finance Screenshot/TerraCycle)

“For the hundreds of years that these figures will likely take to break down, it’s simply someone else’s problem,” said the futurelandfill.org website, arguing that only a “very tiny fraction” would be recycled.

“Most will instead remain a symbol of corporate greed and an abandonment of any environmental responsibility,” the website said.

“These things should never be made in the first place. The endless pursuit of profit for a supermarket chain should not come at a cost to the planet.”

Aldi has previously ruled out any collectibles campaigns, as well as home delivery, self-serve checkouts, and loyalty programs.

"We like to stick to our knitting,” Aldi’s customer service and communications director Adrian Christie told Fairfax.

In fact, Aldi has vowed to move further away from plastic, with plans to reduce its reliance on plastic by 25 per cent by 2025.

Australian media personalities throw weight behind campaign

The campaign is being headed by The Project former managing editor Tom Whitty alongside independent advertising creative director Alex Wadelton.

Meanwhile, the change.org petition was created by Australian YouTube star Natalie Tran, better known as ‘communitychannel’.

“The manipulation of Australian families to increase their consumption is ethically questionable to begin with,” said Whitty.

“Throw in reckless eco vandalism and you’ve got yourself a morally bankrupt stew going.”

“For hundreds of years, these toys will remain a symbol of corporate greed and an abandonment of environmental responsibility.”

Wadelton added that, as a parent, the supermarkets’ plastic promotion “makes my skin crawl”.

“With the health of our planet in the balance, pushing these plastic parasites into the eco-system is morally reprehensible,” he said.

“And it’s teaching our kids a poor lesson that it’s ok to abandon environmental responsibility for short term gratification.

“We hope that the whole country can band together to force the end of these sorts of promotions, just like people power put an end to plastic bags in supermarkets too.”

Alan Duffy, the lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia, also showed his support of the campaign on Instagram.

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