One of Australia’s biggest recycling programs stockpiled millions of soft plastics in a a secret move that poses a potentially lethal fire risk.
REDcycle, which has donation bins in thousands of Coles and Woolworths stores across Australia, stopped its recycling operations several months ago but continued to collect soft plastics.
The recycling program claims to collect up to five million pieces of plastic everyday from supermarkets and other partners, including Australia Post.
In a statement to Daily Mail Australia, REDcycle said it was storing the collected plastic in a warehouse and would continue to do so until its operations restart.
Soft plastic donation bins will disappear from Woolworths and Coles after its partner, REDcycle, ceased operations (pictured, a REDcycle bin in Coles)
‘REDcycle took the decision to hold material in the short term, at great personal expense to the organisation,’.
‘The REDcycle team has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to find other processing solutions and end markets. Potential new opportunities are being presented every day, however they will take time to operationalise.’
The eco-focused group stops soft plastic from ending up as landfill or litter by repurposing it through outsourced companies that can change the plastic to asphalt additives, concrete aggregate and furniture.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on Wednesday how the company lost its partner Plastic Forests last February, which made garden planting kits from recycled materials.
But REDcycle’s real troubles began five months ago after a fire at Close the Loop, the factory in charge of its operation transforming plastic to an asphalt additive.
To make matters worse, last week another of REDcycle’s partners stopped accepting plastic because it has an oversupply.
REDcycle collected 5million pieces of plastic everyday with bins in Coles, Woolworths and several other major retailers (pictured, a worker at Coles)
REDcycle said there are now no organisations operating in Australia that can recycle soft plastic.
Melbourne university student Lucinda Moje-O’Brien told the Sydney Morning Herald she felt ‘betrayed’ because her donations to REDcycle weren’t being repurposed as promised.
‘As a consumer, I’m taking the time to separate my waste and they’re not holding up their end of the deal,’ she said.
Coles told Daily Mail Australia it was only ‘recently made aware’ of REDcycle’s ceased recycling operations and so has removed its donation bins.
‘Due to industry-wide challenges with soft plastic recycling, all REDcycle soft plastic collections from stores will be paused until further notice,’ a spokesman said.
‘This means we will be unable to accept soft plastic recycling returns in Coles stores and through Coles Online at this time.
‘Sustainability is as important to Coles as it is to our customers and partners.
‘We are committed to our Together to zero waste ambition and are working with government, industry and sustainability partners to find a long-term solution for soft plastics recycling in Australia.’
REDcycle reportedly didn’t tell Coles or Woolworths it has stopped recycling soft plastics and instead began storing the donations in a warehouse (pictured, a REDcycle bin in Woolworths)
Woolworths said it was also only ‘recently informed’ about the situation.
‘REDcycle advised it will no longer be able to collect the soft plastic returned by customers from our stores, effective immediately,’ it said in a statement to Daily Mail Australia.
‘Regrettably, this means customers will not be able to recycle their household soft plastic at our stores until collections are able to recommence or an alternative solution can be found.
‘We are disappointed by this situation. We sincerely apologise to our customers and we’re working to return access to soft plastic recycling as soon as possible.’
Woolworths said it is now looking at working with other recycling companies.
REDcycle said on its website that it is struggling to keep up with the increasing number of soft plastic donations.
‘Consumer recycling of soft plastic has grown exponentially in recent years, with a 350% increase in plastic returned since 2019,’ it said.
‘For the short term, consumers are encouraged to put their soft plastics in their home rubbish bin.’
Between 2017 and 2020 several fires were reported at recycling facilities with large plastic storages in Australia.
The Kilburn plastic factory broke out in a massive fire in November, 2020, which caused widespread panic about serious health effects from the toxic fumes.
Residents in the region of the fire, which caused $1million worth of damage, were told to close their windows as toxins from the burning plastic are known to cause cancer as well as thyroid and breathing problems in people and animals.
Abbott’s Village Bakery
Adelia Fine Foods
Australian Packaging Covenant
Beak & Johnston
BioFlex (Bulk Nutrients)
Birch and Waite
Close the Loop
Cobram Estate Olives
Evergreen Garden Care
Feed for Tought
Tata Global Beverages
The Bag Broker
The Bare Bird
The Better Brand
The Packaging People
Good Morning Cereals
Green Skin Wine
Griffiths Bros Coffee Roasters
Hive & Wellness
Johnson & Johnson
Koko Coffee Roasters
Lactalis Australia (Parmalat)
Laucke Flour Mills
LONGDA China Group
Mrs Trans Kitchen
Real Pet Food
Soft Plastic Recycling in New Zealand
Unicharm (Baby Love)
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