REDcycle collection program on pause
REDcycle has announced that its nationwide soft plastics collection program will be on a temporary pause from 9 November 2022 but said it hopes to restart it as soon as possible.
The pause on the soft plastics collection through bins at Coles and Woolworths comes after allegations that the company has been stockpiling waste in warehouses for months without it being recycled.
From at least June this year, it was reported that the recycling program was experiencing issues, after a fire at the processing facility of REDcycle’s largest recycling partner Close the Loop, which converts soft plastics into asphalt additives for road base.
The collapse of the REDcycle soft plastics recycling scheme has revealed deeper problems that must be fixed if the community is to have confidence in plastics recycling, the Boomerang Alliance of 55 NGOs said.
“REDcycle has been the flagship of industry and government claims they are taking action on soft plastics recycling, but it has only ever been a small operation compared to the 336,000 tonnes of soft plastics used and dumped every year. The fundamental problem is the lack of a market to support an ongoing effort and this can only be fixed by mandatory recycled content rules, which to date have been opposed by industry and government,” said Jeff Angel, Director of the Alliance.
“All producers need to be part of a mandatory product stewardship scheme that requires investment in comprehensive collection systems and use of the material in new products. This can be achieved under federal law; or a state like NSW which has some good legislation. Reliance on the voluntary, small-scale approach was always going to fail. Producers also need to find alternatives to plastic, so the pollution problem is lessened.”
Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) plastics spokesperson Shane Cucow described the news as a shocking blow for turtles and whales.
“Soft plastics are one of the most lethal plastics for ocean wildlife, wrapping around other items in their stomachs and causing life-threatening blockages,” he said.
“Chip packets, plastic wrappings and other soft plastics are the most common types of plastics found in ocean clean-up surveys.
“People have been trying to do the right thing by returning their soft plastics for recycling, but even before REDcycle’s suspension we were only managing to recycle 4% of soft plastics in Australia.”
Cucow said the only real solution is for governments to mandate plastic reduction targets for big companies.
“It’s time to hold the big food and beverage companies accountable for the vast amount of plastic pollution they are producing, filling up our landfill and our environment with unrecyclable soft plastics,” Cucow said.
In a social media post REDcycle said: “We want to thank the passionate Australian REDcycle community who over the last 10 years has helped us to keep 5.4 billion pieces of soft plastic entering landfill and our natural environments. REDcycle and its partners are committed to having the program back up and running as soon as possible.”
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