Coles is relaunching its Little Shop promotion with 30 new mini replicas, despite ongoing criticism from environmental groups about plastic waste.

The promotion helped deliver the company record growth when it ran in 2018.

The new line of mini replicas includes Arnott’s Barbecue Shapes, a Coles gift card, Campbell’s tomato soup, Eclipse spearmints, Chobani Greek yoghurt, Vegemite and Heinz baked beans. Shoppers will receive one toy for each $30 they spend.

The Little Shop toys were immensely popular in the last launch, with Facebook swap groups set up for people to trade the items. Some of the rarest Little Shop items sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars. But customers also quickly tired of the toys, and soon the prices dropped on Ebay, as people began donating the toys, if not throwing them out.

Distinctive Options, a not-for-profit disability support organisation that collected unwanted Little Shop toys to use as communication aids for individuals and programs, said earlier this year that the organisation was inundated with toys.

Distinctive Options had to post on Facebook to tell people to stop sending the toys.

The toys were then discovered by environment groups cleaning up beaches and waterways. A Little Shop Nutella toy was also found on a Bali beach, although it was more likely to have ended up there by someone transporting it from Australia rather than being washed up on the beach.

The promotion follows the Stikeez promotion in February consisting of 24 plastic fruit or vegetable toys designed to encourage children to eat healthily.

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At the time of the Stikeez promotion, Jayne Paramor, the deputy director of environmental waste campaigners Boomerang Alliance, said that the quick succession of campaigns showed there was not much longevity in the toys.

“[Coles] have again placed profits ahead of sustainability, using these so-called ‘collectables’ to bring consumers into their stores, with no regard for the environmental impact that this plastic tat will have as it heads for landfill,” she said.

A spokesperson for Coles told Guardian Australia that a customer poll conducted by the supermarket revealed 96% of customers who collected the minis still had them, and the packaging could be recycled.

“The campaign only runs for a limited time and customers are able to recycle the wrappers at their nearest Coles through our in-store RedCycle program. For Coles online deliveries, mini collectable packaging can be returned to the driver, and recycled through our RedCycle program.”



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