The ACCC has granted conditional authorisation to allow the major supermarkets to continue their collaboration to manage the soft plastics stockpile and resume in-store collections after REDcycle suspended its recycling operations.

The Commission previously granted conditional interim authorisation to Coles, Woolworths and Aldi in November 2022, which allowed the supermarkets to collaborate via the Soft Plastics Taskforce.

A result of this collaboration was the Taskforce’s Roadmap to Restart plan, which is an interim plan to restore community access to soft plastics recycling through Australian supermarkets.

“We have granted this final authorisation to allow supermarkets to continue their discussions around the issue of in-store collections, as outlined in the Roadmap to Restart,” explained Mick Keogh, ACCC’s deputy chair. 

“We believe this conditional authorisation is in the public interest, reflecting public concern about the stockpiling of soft plastics and the need to divert soft plastics from landfill, and inform consumers about the resumption of in-store collections. 

“The authorisation has been granted with conditions that ensure there is continued transparency on the progress towards the roadmap, and that the public are kept up to date.”

The ACCC may grant an authorisation to companies for any conduct that could raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment. 

For this authorisation, the ACCC has decided to specify conditions which relate to the provision of information, progress reporting requirements, and the termination of arrangements upon expiry of authorisation. 

“This authorisation is for 12 months and the supermarkets would need to apply for further authorisation for any longer-term solutions that involve collaboration between the supermarkets,” Keogh said. 

“The ACCC has also been engaging with industry stakeholders and representative bodies to ensure transparency in communications to minimise the risk of consumers being misled by representations on packaging about the recycling of soft plastics.” 

REDcycle was an industry-led program which, since 2011, had been the only return-to-store soft plastics recovery program in Australia, facilitating the collection and processing of soft plastics into a variety of durable recycled plastic products. 

In November last year, REDcycle announced the suspension of its soft plastics collection program, as its recycling partners had temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics.

Following REDcycle’s announcement, Coles and Woolworths each announced that they would be suspending soft plastics collections from their stores until further notice.

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