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Stockpiled soft plastic to be sent overseas for recycling

More than 12,000 tonnes to be shipped.

Soft plastics are to be processed overseas following the long-term backlog in supermarkets, as part of the Soft Plastics Taskforce ‘Roadmap to restart’ pilot plan. 

Major supermarket retailers ALDI, Coles, and Woolworths are working together to clear the 12,000-tonne stockpile by the end of the year which has been held up since November 2022.

According to the Woolworths Group, Coles and Woolworths will be working through the options for overseas exportation “with government approvals”, which would allow recycling beyond Australia’s capability.  

The Guardian has reported that Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have been granted an exemption for offshore recycling, despite a national waste export ban made in 2019.  

The Soft Plastics Taskforce spokesperson said they will reintroduce soft plastic collections once they are confident it will be properly recycled.  

“The best way to accelerate nationwide access to soft plastic recycling is through continued investment in recycling facilities to bring forward existing plans to expand domestic capacity,” they said.  

We owe it to consumers to get this right.” 

While the Taskforce is working towards urgent action, Australia is currently severely constrained by the limited mixed polymer recycling facilities.  

“It is crucial that this opportunity to rethink Australia’s future national soft plastic recycling model is not overlooked,” the Taskforce spokesperson said.  

The Guardian has reported their sources as saying that one of the sites being considered for is a facility in Texas, and that supermarket chains are also in discussions with recycling facilities in other countries. 

The Victorian Government also aims to introduce soft plastic kerbside bins to help increase the amount of soft plastic collected, with regulation assessments already underway.  

Less than five percent of consumer soft plastic was collected by the REDcycle program, the Australian Packing Covenant Organisation has said.  

 Photo: Plastic and kale in Coles supermarket by Anna Gregory available HERE and used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not not been modified.

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