Coles and Woolworths make huge call on soft plastics

The two supermarket giants have joined forces in the wake of REDcycle's failure.

Australian supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have offered to step up to take control of the massive stockpiles of soft plastic material collected by REDcycle, while recycling solutions are explored.

The REDcycle program was suspended in November 2022 after revelations that soft plastics left at Coles and Woolies were not being recycled, but instead delivered to long-term storage warehouses.

The retailers have made the joint offer to provide reassurance to the public that these soft plastics stockpiles won't be unnecessarily sent to landfill.

Coles and Woolworths plastic piles
Coles and Woolworths have offered to take responsibility for the 12,000 tonnes of waste stockpiled after the collapse of the REDcycle recycling scheme. Source: Getty

The move comes after extensive meetings with the Soft Plastics Taskforce and ahead of the release of a roadmap for tackling the issue long term. While the recycling capacity for soft plastics in Australia is limited, Coles and Woolworths have pledged multi-million-dollar contributions to a Soft Plastics Recycling Contribution Fund to manage and store the stockpiled material until recycling solutions can be found.

Retail giants committed to restoring trust in recycling programs

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said they're committed to finding the best outcomes for the environment and restoring community trust in their recycling systems.

"We know Australians have been let down. We were very disappointed to learn that REDcycle hasn't been recycling the soft plastics they collected from our stores, and we are working to make it right," he said.

Coles Chief Operations and Sustainability Officer, Matt Swindells, echoed the sentiment, adding that their aim is to continue to work with governments and industry to find workable solutions to soft plastic recycling in Australia.

"Collectively Coles and Woolworths have paid more than $20 million to REDcycle over the last decade to ensure this would happen and we remain deeply disappointed by the unrecycled stockpiles,” Swindells said.

REDcycle yet to respond

If REDcycle takes up this opportunity, the supermarkets will implement an interim strategy, such as safely storing material until it can be viably processed for recycling. REDcycle is yet to respond and the supermarkets have not yet been given access to the stockpiled plastics.

Promising step forward

The Boomerang Alliance, a coalition of 55 conservation groups, expressed hope that Coles and Woolworths' commitment to handling the REDcycle soft plastic stockpile will be the beginning of the journey to recycle the majority of the 440,000 tonnes of soft plastic used by Australians each year.

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