The Soft Plastics Taskforce outlines a plan to reinstate reprocessing of soft plastics.
A Roadmap to Restart, published by the Soft Plastics Taskforce, outlines the procedures to be followed in order to implement a new supermarket soft plastic collection program and the present situation in the Australian recycling sector.
Following the suspension of the REDcycle program, the Taskforce, comprised of major supermarket chains ALDI, Coles, and Woolworths, has been charged with creating a temporary solution to reestablish community access to soft plastic recycling.
If the existing soft plastic stockpiles at REDcycle can be cleared out in time, the current plan calls for the start of an initial in-store collection pilot in a few chosen stores in late 2023. Next year, the new initiative will be gradually implemented nationwide.
The Taskforce is attempting to start in-store collections as soon as possible, but it is severely hindered by Australia’s limited access to domestic soft plastic recycling that can handle the “mixed polymer” soft plastics that the general public discards in supermarket collection bins.
The amount of household soft plastics gathered in a supermarket program could not currently be recycled using domestic infrastructure. The Taskforce has therefore predicted how Australian soft plastic recycling capacity will rise over the coming year as new businesses open up shop and established ones grow.
To ensure that the volume of incoming domestic soft plastics does not surpass the amount that can be recycled, as happened with REDcycle, the Taskforce will begin a staged reintroduction of in-store collections in late 2023 to take advantage of the newly available processing capacity.
According to a Taskforce spokesperson, the REDcycle bins found at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets have been the only way for the overwhelming majority of Australian households to recycle their soft plastic trash.
“Rebuilding public confidence in soft plastic recycling is essential, and the Taskforce will resume collecting soft plastic when it is certain that it will be recycled correctly. Customers owe it to us to get this right.
“Continued investment in recycling sites to advance current plans to increase domestic capacity is the best way to speed up nationwide access to soft plastic recycling.
“We appreciate the help from the business community, the Department of the Environment, and Minister Tanya Plibersek of the Environment and Water. As we create this first step towards a circular economy for soft plastic, we anticipate their ongoing input.
By clearing REDcycle’s present stockpiles of soft plastic, which Coles and Woolworths have recently been given control of, it will be possible to start an in-store collection pilot by the end of 2023, according to the current schedule.
The start of in-store collections will be delayed if the estimated 12,000 tonnes of stockpiled material eats up additional domestic processing capacity for at least a year. In light of this, Coles and Woolworths plan to explore the possibility of exporting the stockpiles to reputable recycling centers abroad with the required transparency, traceability, and government approvals. Through this, people in Australia would have access to sophisticated recycling methods not currently available domestically.
The Taskforce intends to involve other retailers, e-commerce sites, and consumer brands that produce soft plastics in the creation of the new in-store collection program over the coming months.
According to the Australian Packaging Covenant Organization, the REDcycle program only managed to gather 5% or less of consumer soft plastic. Beyond its interim program, which has the potential to greatly increase the proportion of domestic soft plastic collected, the Taskforce acknowledges the need for a long-term national soft plastic recycling strategy.
The Taskforce spokesperson continued, “We acknowledge that over time, more soft plastic could be kept out of landfills if future programs are more user-friendly and can intercept soft plastic at the place where it becomes waste—the household.
It is imperative that this chance to reconsider Australia’s national soft plastic recycling strategy is not passed up.
To collect more soft plastics from homes, the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) proposes a new kerbside plan. It was created by the Australian Food and Grocery Council with financial assistance from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund of the Australian Federal Government. The program is built on a model in which food and grocery manufacturers would be required to pay a tax to support the recycling of the soft plastics they produce. It is presently being tested in a few locations.
In anticipation of the outcome of the ongoing NPRS trial, the Victorian Government has declared a future rollout of curbside soft plastic recycling throughout the entire state. To ensure that as much domestic soft plastic is kept out of landfills as possible, the Taskforce applauds this action and strongly urges state and territory governments to support their local councils in doing the same.
Through 2023, the Taskforce will keep the public informed of its developments. Through the websites of Aldi, Coles, or Woolworths, you can view the Roadmap.