Rebuilding Our Soft Plastics Recycling System: The Soft Plastics Taskforce Trial

In an inspiring development for environmental sustainability, Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi have joined forces under the Soft Plastics Taskforce, chaired by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water, to launch an innovative soft plastics recycling trial in 12 Melbourne stores. This initiative represents a significant step forward in the recycling of soft plastics, offering a beacon of progress following the challenges faced by the sector since November 2022.

About REDcycle

Established in 2011, REDcycle was Australia’s national program dedicated to the collection and recycling of soft plastics. At its peak, operations spanned over 2,000 Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, alongside select Aldi stores, providing a convenient avenue for consumers to dispose of their used soft plastics for recycling. However, operational challenges, including processing 5 million items a day, led to REDcycle’s collapse in November 2022. Since then, both businesses and consumers have been eagerly anticipating further developments regarding the future of soft plastics recycling initiatives.

About the 2024 Trial

The trial’s commencement is timed with the opening of new soft plastic recycling facilities and reintroduces an in-store recycling option for customers, enabling them to dispose of soft plastics in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner. The new trial not only aims to reinvigorate the recycling of soft plastics but also to rigorously test the emerging recycling industry’s capacity to handle such materials effectively. The taskforce encourages Melbourne residents to participate by bringing their household soft plastic waste to the designated stores, integrating recycling into their regular shopping routine. These plastics will then be collected, baled, and transported to local recycling partners, where they will undergo processing into various products, such as additives for asphalt roads, replacements for aggregate in concrete, and materials for shopping trolleys and baskets.

The significance of this trial extends beyond waste management; it represents a critical test for the soft plastic recycling industry in Australia. By ensuring that the collected materials are appropriately sorted, weighed, and processed, the initiative aims to set a benchmark for quality and accountability in recycling. The participating partners are required to report on the materials they receive and the products they produce, with site inspections and audits in place to meet the taskforce’s expectations. As the trial progresses, its results will be meticulously reported to the environment department and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). This step is seen as vital in establishing a scalable and trustworthy model for soft plastics recycling across Australia.

Our Thoughts as a former REDcycle Partner

As member of the Australia Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO), and a former REDcycle partner, we’re incredibly excited about this progress update from the Soft Plastics Taskforce. It represents a major step forward in ensuring the sustainability of plastic packaging. While we acknowledge the challenges faced by this taskforce, such as the lack of physical recycling infrastructure needed to expand this nationwide, we’re hopeful that this test is just the first step toward our collective goal of achieving a robust soft plastics recycling system.

At RollsPack, we’re focused on innovating for the future and recognise that as a company, we must seek every opportunity to implement sustainable practices. We will continue to support initiatives and organisations such as the Soft Plastics Taskforce that are striving toward a more sustainable future for packaging.

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