Coles, Woolworths recycling scheme collapses after secret stockpiles revealed

Posted on November 8, 2022 by DrRossH in Plastic Waste News


Lucinda Moje-O’Brien routinely recycles her plastic bags at REDcycle supermarket collection points.

Australia’s largest plastic bag recycling program has collapsed amid revelations hundreds of millions of bags and other soft plastic items dropped off by customers at Coles and Woolworths are being secretly stockpiled in warehouses and not recycled.

Instead of being taken to companies that use the plastic to make other items, REDcycle has been transporting the plastic to warehouses for long-term storage in what some experts consider a potential environmental and fire safety risk.

The Melbourne-based company, which claims to collect up to 5 million plastic items a day from public drop-off points at nearly 2000 supermarkets across the country, did not publicly announce the suspension of the recycling component of its program, and has for months continued collecting large volumes of soft plastics including shopping bags, pet food bags, ice cream wrappers, bubble wrap and frozen food packaging.

The plastics collected are usually sent to other companies, where they are used as ingredients in concrete, asphalt, street furniture, bollards and shopping trolleys.

There are many ways to look at this.  Many people are complaining they can’t recycle their plastic waste any more, they feel ‘let down’.

However REDcycle should be congratulated for having down so well for so long.   They have been taking our soft plastic for years and absolving us of the guilt from using it in the first place.

The real problem here is we are using too much of this plastic.  if people want to really make a difference they should stop buying items wrapped in plastic.  They should stop taking plastic bags.  This alone would make a big difference.  So the people that should feel let down are the ones already not using soft plastic and see that people still have been using it far too much.

Plus, lets not kid ourselves for a moment that taking soft plastic and reusing it in road base is in any way or form called ‘recycling’.  Recycling is taking the used material and remaking similar products from it.  That stops the use of new virgin material being needed.    Putting it in road base, or down cycling to basic products  is not stopping the plastic manufactures from making more bags, soft film, packaging supplies etc.  That is the problem we need to solve.  For plastics this is a very difficult problem and no real scalable solution in the near future.