Woolworths workers make shocking claims about plastics recycling bins

Serious allegations have surfaced suggesting managers at Woolworths have not been upholding the retailer’s commitment to its widely praised recycling program.

Many workers came forward after an employee at a Sydney Metro Woolworths said duty managers had been telling him to put REDcycle waste “straight in the dumpster”.

Woolworths claims each of its stores has a REDcycle bin for people to recycle their household soft plastics to be repurposed into other items like outdoor furniture, bollards and signage.

According to a handful of workers posting online however, customers could be wasting their efforts by collecting soft plastic waste and depositing it in a REDcycle bin at Woolworths.

Among the damning allegations were employees saying their store had removed the REDcycle bins all together, repurposed them into general waste bins and put waste collected through the bin into a baler machine.

Image from the front of a Woolworths store.
Woolworths is facing allegations from workers about not honouring its REDcycling program. Source: Getty Images

REDcycle bins are supposed to be collected by the recycling company to be sent away and processed, but some have claimed the bins from their store never even get collected.

“We don’t have REDcycle pick-up. We get our cardboard bloke to pick them up as a RED bale whenever we have enough to make a RED bale. Helps when u have a plastic baler,” one worker wrote.

“Bane of my existence this s**t. Dumped every time. The public see 'recycling' and think ‘oh.. garbage disposal’,” another said.

“My store throws it in the same bin as the cardboard baler. No idea if it’s meant to go there but no one’s ever corrected me for it,” someone else wrote.

REDcycle ‘failed to collect the plastics for months’

The worker who posted the original complaint also shared a photo of the supposed REDcycle bin at his store revealing the waste was collected in a black bag.

Several pointed out that REDcycle waste had to be put in a clear bag or else it would not be accepted by recyclers.

REDcycle bin at Woolworths Metro store in Sydney.
A worker photographed the REDcycle bin at his store in Sydney. Source: Facebook

Another employee said their store had been trying to get REDcycle to collect their recycling for five or six months without success.

“Would be great if REDcycle actually came down to our store... Even if they do, they don’t show up half the time,” another said.

“I'd be a bit miffed if I was a customer who took the time to sort out their soft plastics at home to keep it out of landfill, only to find out that the staff at Woolies just chucked it in the bin,” someone else said.

Several more said they too had been told to toss out REDcycled waste with the regular rubbish, even without knowing if the bags were contaminated with unsuitable items.

“Woolworths could do so much better at recycling. I've asked previous managers to put a box upstairs so we can put ripped ticketing paper in there. And I was just kind of scoffed at,” someone else wrote.

“We removed the recycle bin,” another said.

Woolworths ‘concerned’ about reports

While acknowledging the reports were “concerning”, a Woolworths spokesperson maintained the recycling program was effective in reducing plastic waste going to landfill.

“Our program with REDcycle has seen more than 2,335 tonnes of soft plastics recycled in the last 12 months, so we know it's having a positive impact,” they told Yahoo News Australia.

“These claims are concerning and we’re currently investigating their validity as they’re clearly inconsistent with our store procedures.

“The only acceptable instance where soft plastics may not be sent for recycling is if the collection has been contaminated with materials that aren’t recyclable through the program.

“The soft plastics collected in the REDcycle facilities at each of our stores are delivered to REDcycle and repurposed into useful items like outdoor furniture and benches for community groups.

“While we investigate these specific claims, we’ll provide all our stores with a reminder on the correct procedures for recycling the soft plastic collected in our REDcycle bins.”

A REDcycle spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that it has “at no time suggested to any store that we will no longer collect their REDcycle plastic.”

“This could possibly be an internal processing issue that Woolworths can address with particular stores.

“Without knowing the store locations of those being spoken about, it is difficult for us to make any further comment, however there is definitely a misunderstanding here, and we are working closely with Woolworths to determine what has happened.”

Both Woolworths and Coles collect household soft plastic through the REDcycle program.

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