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Bathurst Wholefoods Co-op leads the way in sustainable shopping

As Australia’s recycling industry reaches crisis point, following China’s decision to stop accepting foreign waste, one Bathurst shop is demonstrating how shopping can be done sustainably.

Bathurst Wholefoods Co-operative is a locally run grocery store that is determined to be as environmentally friendly as possible, by not only sourcing its foods and products locally, but by ensuring that it contributes as little waste as possible.

Led by manager and mother, Cathie Hale, the store unlike most retailers invites and encourages its shoppers to bring in their own containers and jars to buy foods. In this way, shoppers are minimising waste and not adding to Australia’s already growing recycling and waste problem.

So how does the system work exactly?

“We get all our product in bulk, and we then put it open on the floor. People are able to come in and select it off the shop floor and they can put it straight into their own jars or containers that they bring from home”, said Ms Hale.

Nuts, fruits and grains are stored in bulk in the Co-op      SOURCE: Bethan Smoleniec

The incentive that drives the way in which Bathurst Wholefoods Co-op runs, stems from the stores sustainable ethos and clear values, which in turn both help the community and demonstrate how easy it is to eliminate plastic wherever possible.



The notion of being environmentally aware is something that both Ms Hale and all of the volunteers that work in the Co-op are very passionate about.

“We’ve been here in the community for 6 and half years and we’re a not for profit community organisation. So right from the outset, we have very strong values. We want to have local food as much as possible, we want to have organic food as much as possible, we want to encourage local producers to grow sustainably and suitable for the environment, which includes less chemicals and so forth. I think the packaging just goes hand in hand with that strong ethos of environmental awareness and consciousness”, said Ms Hale.

Using less plastics in supermarkets is an area that many Bathurst residents are very conscious about and following Coles and Woolworths decision to ban single-use plastic bags, has many in the community asking why it didn’t occur sooner.

Charles Sturt University student, Harrison Carter, is one resident who has welcomed the ban of single-use plastic bags entirely,

“I think it’s great, plastic just takes way too long to break down. It’s not good for the planet. I think it’s very easy to just plan ahead and take your canvas bags. If you’re proactive enough to take a shopping list and go to the supermarket, it’s pretty easy to just remember to take some bags with you” he said.

Mr Carter’s comments follow Coles’ backflip and then backflip again on whether they would continue to ban single-use plastic bags, as the supermarket giant found many of its customers to be complaining about having to bring in their own bags.

All products are put open on the floor.   SOURCE: Bethan Smoleniec

The need for consumers to be conscious and accepting of the single-use plastic bag ban is an area that Bathurst mother and speech and drama teacher, Anne McIntosh, strongly believes in.

When asked whether supermarkets prepared consumers for the ban on single-use plastic bags she said,


“They certainly gave consumers ample notice and then extended the offer of free single-use bags on numerous occasions. People are always reluctant to change but with time they adapt.  In the future we’ll look back and say ‘remember when supermarkets used to provide plastic bags!’”.

The role of the consumer in putting pressure on supermarkets and stores to make more changes to the way in which food and grocery items are packaged is power mount if we are to properly address Australia’s waste problem.

Thankfully, stores like Bathurst Wholefoods Co-op are leading the way and showing that it is possible to shop more sustainably. Though as Ms Hale said,

“there’s still a lot of work that has to be done everywhere”.