Coles has recorded a 32 per cent increase in soft plastic recycling during the 2019 financial year, or the equivalent of the earth's circumference, while beverage giant Lion has also partnered with the REDcycle programme.
Coles chief property and export officer Thinus Keeve said the increase showed how significant reducing waste had become for consumers. “We know that recycling is important to our customers, and we are seeing many people changing their habits to reduce waste that ends up in landfill,” Keeve said.
Soft plastics – including packaging such as biscuit packets, lolly bags, frozen food bags and bread, rice and pasta bags – cannot be recycled through most kerbside recycling services. Last year Coles became the first major supermarket to roll out REDcycle bins in all its stores.
In FY19, customers recycled 905 tonnes or 226 million pieces of soft plastics. Keeve said: “Since we partnered with REDcycle in 2011, our customers have recycled enough pieces of plastic to go around the world five times, which is just fantastic. We want to become Australia’s most sustainable retailer, so we are looking at ways to divert even more waste from landfill and reduce packaging.”
The soft plastic collected in REDcycle bins at Coles supermarkets is used as a raw material by Australian manufacturers Replas and Plastic Forests. It is converted into a range of uses, including playground benches, garden edging, wheel stops, walkways in parks, bollards, and the customer seats used in Coles supermarkets. REDcycle has also partnered with Close the Loop and Downer EDI to provide soft plastic for road base.
RED Group Director of Development Elizabeth Kasell is proud consumers have jumped on board to support soft-plastic recycling. “This is helping retailers, distributors and manufacturers work together for a better outcome for materials that were previously going to landfill,” Kasell said.
In related news, Lion has become the first major brewer in Australia to partner with REDcycle, and will add the scheme’s logo to its soft plastic packaging over the next 18 months to encourage recycling, said Lion CEO Stuart Irvine.
“We are now evaluating alternative packaging technologies to further reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. We are also working with industry partners, such as the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, to develop broader industry solutions that minimise the impact of our packaging and promote the circular economy to minimise waste in the environment.
“While we work our way through these big supply chain changes, actively supporting programs such as REDcycle helps raise awareness and encourages our consumers to ramp up their recycling efforts,” he said.
According to Irvine, Lion’s eco-credentials are well-established, having already phased out all plastic rings from its products as of three years ago.
“We continue to work towards making 100 per cent of our consumer packaging recyclable by 2025, and our packaging made from at least 50 per cent recycled content in the same time frame, and we are well on track to achieve this,” he said.
From RED Group’s perspective, Kasell said that REDcycle would not be possible without the support of partners like Lion.
“We are so pleased to see organisations demonstrate their commitment to corporate stewardship and the circular economy by partnering with REDcycle for a better end of life outcomes for their soft plastic packaging,” she said.