Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has called on Australia’s two largest supermarket chains to come up with a “workable solution” after being forced to suspend plans to recycle major soft plastics.
REDcycle announced late yesterday that it was suspending collections at Woolworths and Coles, where customers returned more than 5 million soft plastics each day.
The suspension came after Age reported on Tuesday that soft plastic products are being stockpiled under the scheme by REDcycle rather than recycling.
REDcycle confirmed it will stop collecting from Wednesday and said two companies that received recycled material were unable to accept any more material due to a fire at a factory and “low market demand”. said it was gone.
The Melbourne-based initiative encouraged people to throw soft plastics into the general trash, saying it was “committed to restarting and running the program as soon as possible.”
Both Woolworths and Coles say they cannot accept soft plastics for recycling and are currently working on a solution.
“It cannot be beyond these big supermarkets to come up with viable solutions to allow Australians to continue recycling,” Plibersek said Wednesday.
“I hope that Coles and Woolworths will stand up and show how they deal with recycling soft plastics.
“Their customers want to do the right thing, and so should Coles and Woolworths.”
Earlier in the day, Woolworths said it was exploring options with the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the recycling industry and the industry-led voluntary Australian Packaging Code Organization (APCO), and was “disappointed” by the turn of events. said.
Coles said he is “working with government, industry and sustainability partners” to find solutions.
Privasec said the supermarket business has held discussions with Coles, Woolworths and the Australian Food and Grocery Council about their responsibilities to reduce packaging, replace them with less environmentally destructive alternatives and recycle their waste.
“Coles and Woolleys agree. They said they felt the need and responsibility to take action here and the Australian government was ready to help them take that action,” she said. said.
She said the problem is difficult to address immediately and that she is discussing with retailers how to deal with their waste stockpiles and that they will “come up with better recycling options in the near future.”
Plibersek said the government has set aside $60 million to increase the recycling of soft plastics and has given the Australian Food and Grocery Council $1 million to work with industry to develop more sustainable solutions for soft plastics. provided.
New South Wales Environment Minister James Griffin calls on the state’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work immediately with Victorian EPA and Recycle Victoria to understand the challenges impacting REDcycle’s operations said he did.
NSW EPA Chief Executive Tony Chappel said the agency “will work with REDcycle to identify any overstocking issues so that appropriate steps can be taken to manage potential risks.” said.
Jeff Engel, director of the Boomerang Alliance, which is made up of more than 50 non-governmental organizations, said the collapse of the scheme was “a much more serious problem that must be solved if communities are to have the confidence to recycle plastic.” ‘, he said.
“REDcycle is the flagship of the industry and the government claims to be committed to recycling soft plastics, but compared to the 336,000 tonnes of soft plastics that are used and dumped each year, even a small operation I’m sorry,’ he said.
“The underlying problem is the lack of a market to support ongoing efforts, which can only be remedied by mandatory recycled content rules, which have so far been opposed by industry and governments.”
In a statement, APCO said it launched an independent review of soft plastic recycling last week after learning “the seriousness of the situation” at REDcycle.
Chris Foley, Chief Executive Officer of APCO, said: This is a short-term glitch in the system that is highly related to the pandemic consistent with the unforeseen challenges experienced by our reprocessing partners. “
He said the suspension of the REDcycle program “is a good opportunity for Australian brand owners and the packaging and recycling industry to pause and reset the way they manage soft plastics”.
“This reset will enable Australia to build a continued sustainable path for soft plastics and APCO will work with industry stakeholders to solve the problem and develop strong and lasting solutions. can do.”