Alarming discovery from the air exposes major supermarket problem

Thousands of unrecycled plastic bags are being stored at sites across the country as Coles and Woolworths work to solve the ongoing problem.

Unnerving footage of a stockpile site has exposed the national problem supermarkets are facing following REDcycle's failed program.

Aerial video from 9 News shows a huge stockpile of soft plastic bags, including thousands from Coles and Woolworths, being stored at Sydney's Marsden Park. Sadly the site with unrecycled soft plastics is just one of 19 in NSW, with 15 in Victoria, six in South Australia, two in Tasmania, one in Queensland and one in Western Australia.

REDcycle, the private company behind Coles and Woolworths' soft recycling program, was dropped by the retailers in November last year after they found out the bags weren't being recycled.

A photo of more than 12,000 tonnes of soft plastic bags from the likes of Coles and Woolworths being stored at a stockpile site in Sydney’s Marsden Park, instead of being recycled.
More than 12,000 tonnes of soft plastic bags being stored at a stockpile site in Sydney’s Marsden Park, instead of being recycled. Source: 7 News

What are Coles and Woolworths doing about it?

Both Coles and Woolworths have since taken control of the stockpiles in late February and have contacted the operators of all 44 sites to make sure the plastic is being stored safely where there is a reduced fire risk.

In the meantime they are also searching for an alternative recycling scheme but have warned it could be a slow process and are looking into shipping waste overseas to free up limited domestic recycling capacity.

Why did the REDcycle program fail?

REDcycle previously said it was holding onto the waste — which they deny being part of a secret coverup — while trying to ride out problems including the lack of recycling capacity.

The company said the plastic was warehoused at its own expense and had planned to have it processed once operations were back online, which did not end up happening as the venture went into liquidation.

Total Environment Centre's Jeff Angel has also slammed the continued labelling on products using the REDcycle logo as "green washing". Many supermarket products in soft plastic packaging still promote REDcycle despite the scheme not operating.

"We need much faster action by the supermarkets and by the packaging industry," he told 9 News. "The real problem is the lack of reprocessing facilities, but the packaging industry knew about this in 2018 and did nothing."

Woolworths phases out reusable plastic bags

The shocking footage of the Marsden Park site comes on the same day Woolworths began its phase-out of reusable plastic bags in Australia's two most populous states, completing their nationwide removal.

The 15c bags will be completely removed from checkouts by June in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. The phase-out has already taken place in the ACT, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. Paper bags will remain on sale, with the supermarket giant encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags.

with AAP

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