Last week, Australia’s biggest soft plastic recycling scheme, REDcycle, announced its suspension after being exposed that they have actually been stockpiling them in a warehouse… Hundreds of millions of soft plastic pieces…
It’s been a shock to many and you are definitely not alone if you have been left feeling frustrated and upset by this. We can’t just sit here and blame REDcycle though, as the problem goes much further back then that. REDcycle has just been the scapegoat for these big supermarkets and corporations. This is the wake up call needed to spark those bigger conversations and make a bigger change in the system.
REDcycle is a Melbourne-based organisation that has implemented a recovery initiative for soft plastics once they have been used. They are focused on keeping soft plastic packaging out of landfill and are partnered up with Close the Loop and Replas, who then use the material to create recycled plastic products such as outdoor benches, bollards and playgrounds. They have more than 2,000 drop-off points at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets around the country.
So, what happened?
According to REDcycle, consumer recycling of soft plastic has grown exponentially in recent years, with a 350% increase in plastic returned since 2019. REDcycle’s recycling partners have temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics with no clear answer as to why.
Yes, this is incredibly upsetting, but REDcycle is just one company trying to provide a solution to the whole of Australia’s soft plastic waste. They claim that they were receiving 4 million pieces of soft plastic to their REDcycle bins every single day. If your brain works anything like mine, this number tells me that this isn’t a recycling problem, but is a serious problem of over production of single use plastic products and that something needs to change.
Instead of attacking the root of the problem (the production and sales of single use plastic), the federal government has recently set a target to recycle or reuse 100 percent of plastic waste by 2040… Not looking promising, considering the previous government set a target of recycling 70 percent of plastics by 2025 - and currently Australia only recycles and reuses about 16% of the more than 1 million tonnes of plastic in circulation.
Nothing is truly recycled until it re-enters the market as a product and someone buys it... putting something in the recycling bin is just a way to make us feel better. The sellers of products in single-use plastic packaging love the REDcycle scheme because it makes them seem like a company that supports sustainability. Yet in actual fact, it’s YOU putting in the work of cleaning and dropping off the recyclables, REDcycle collecting, processing and trying to find buyers who will use the material.
It’s time to stop putting responsibility on the consumers and instead on the companies producing and stocking these single use plastics. This REDcycle suspension is a great opportunity for supermarkets to put pressure on brands to move to sustainable packaging and refill systems. Time for the government to step up, increase legislation and provide us with a better long term solution for our future.