Woolworths shopper slams ironic sign over plastic recycling

A Woolworths shopper has slammed the supermarket giant for an ironic sign announcing the temporary postponement of one of its recycling schemes at her local store.

Dorothy Hill was angered to see the REDcycle scheme at her local Woolworths in South Australia’s Victor Harbor cancelled, with the store erecting a sign indicating the store could no longer collect and recycle plastic bags and soft plastics.

The 83-year-old was particularly annoyed to see the store tell customers any plastics left would be sent to landfill, defeating the purpose of the scheme.

“I think it’s terrible... and I’m upset about its discontinuation,” Ms Hill told Yahoo News Australia.

“They say they’re committed to saving thousands of tonnes of plastic from landfill when [the sign] clearly indicates they’re not.”

The Woolworths sign that angered customer Dorothy Hill. Source: Supplied
The Woolworths sign that angered customer Dorothy Hill. Source: Supplied

The REDcycle scheme recycles soft plastics such as bread bags that can’t be placed in kerbside recycling bins. They are then repurposed into furniture and other equipment to avoid them ending up in landfill.

Ms Hill has been using the scheme over the last six months, regularly dropping off her plastics in store.

She said the supermarket needed to be called out for when they fail to deliver on one of its major recycling schemes after preaching about their efforts.

Ms Hill said she had been inspired by Greta Thunberg to protect the planet where she could.

Yahoo News Australia has previously received complaints from other customers who alleged recycled plastic in some stores was not being processed properly, however such reports could not be verified.

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the service had been temporarily postponed due to running out of the bags the plastic is placed in.

“We apologise for the recent disruption to our usual RedCycle recycling service at our Victor Harbor store,” they said.

The problem had affected one other store but the issue had now been resolved and the REDcycle scheme was operating again.

Woolworths said they were unaware of any plastics being sent to landfill.

Woolworths say the issue was an isolated problem. Source: Reuters
Woolworths say the issue was an isolated problem. Source: Reuters

Supermarkets’ plastic plight

Single-use plastics have been a contentious issue across Australia in recent years and mounting pressure on major companies led to single-use shopping bags being removed from leading supermarkets in 2018.

While Woolworths and Coles say the move will remove a collective five billion single-use plastic bags from its stores annually, experts fear customers have not been guided sufficiently to change their behaviours when it comes to bags at the supermarket.

“They’re talking in the billions of [single-use] bags not being distributed so that’s a significant reduction on those, but, of course, the critical question there is what’s happened to the sale of other plastic bags?” University of Melbourne’s behaviour change and environmental sustainability expert Geoffrey Binder told Yahoo News Australia last year.

Dr Binder believes shoppers are more likely to be treating reusable plastic bags in the same manner as single-use bags and the move had most likely not reduced plastic waste.

Woolworths and Coles have both come under fire for their use of single-use plastics for packaging across their stores.

The supermarkets have routinely faced criticism over the packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables, however some changes have since been made with Woolworths announcing cardboard alternatives.

Woolworths research in June revealed 70 per cent of customers are still pushing for sustainable options in store despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“Woolworths remains as committed as ever to creating a greener future,” Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said at the time.

A Coles spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia there had been no disruption to its REDcycle program during the coronavirus pandemic.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.