A trial for soft plastic recycling collections is currently underway in 12 Melbourne supermarkets. The supermarket members of the Soft Plastics Taskforce, comprised of Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, have been working with industry and government to explore how household soft plastics might be recycled in future.

The taskforce says it is running a six-week trial to collect information to understand the volumes and types of materials being dropped off by customers. For the duration of the trial, customers will be able to deposit their household soft plastics in the collection bins located at the front of the 12 participating stores.

Given industry-wide solutions for soft plastics recycling continue to be explored, this will be a limited trial. The aim of the trial is to inform how to approach a longer-term recycling scheme with the support of the broader industry in future.

The trial aims to help the Soft Plastics Taskforce and industry understand whether a new soft plastics collection system could be successful and the ability of soft plastic recyclers to cope with demand levels.

Due to the fact that there are currently only a limited number of soft plastic recyclers in Australia, some of whom are still in the process of scaling up their operations and are testing their capacity, the taskforce says the trial is only possible across 12 stores currently.

Soft plastics will be collected from each participating store during the trial by a third party, who will then bale and transport the materials to one of the taskforces recycling partners in the local area.

Close the Loop is one of the supporting recycling partners for the program. The company says that soft plastics provided to its facility in Melbourne’s north will be processed “with zero waste to landfill” and used for its engineered asphalt additive TonerPlas or its injection moulding grade of recycled resin rFlex for use in products such as shipping pallets, baskets and shopping trolleys.

The taskforce says it is working with logistics and recycling partners to implement appropriate timeframes to ensure collected soft plastics are recycled in a timely manner, in order to avoid stockpiling. To ensure transparency, each recycling partner will be required to provide data on the material they receive and the recycled material they create with it.

At this stage, the taskforce says it is not possible to set a date when collections will be available in more stores or locations. At present, there are not enough soft plastic recyclers to handle collections from a high number of locations.

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