AUSTRALIA – Supermarket chains ALDI, Coles and Woolworths have jointly announced plans to resume soft plastic recycling in Australia following the suspension of the REDcycle program.

Under the new ‘Roadmap to Restart,’ the group aims to pilot in-store collection at certain stores later this year.

The program is dependent on the processing of nearly 12,500 tonnes of leftover plastic from the halted REDcycle program.

“For the vast majority of Australian households, the only avenue to recycle their soft plastic waste has been through the REDcycle bins available at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. We owe it to consumers to get this right,” said a spokesperson for the task force.

The roadmap comes a week after Coles and Woolworths offered to take responsibility for stockpiled soft plastic after the REDcycle program collapsed.

REDcycle suspended its soft plastics collection program on 9 November after its recycling partners temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics.

The retailers have offered to extend their support for the scheme after meeting with the Soft Plastics Taskforce, which was formed following REDcycle’s suspension.

Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said: “Coles and Woolworths have taken this step to provide reassurance to the public that the soft plastics they took the effort to deposit in REDcycle’s bins won’t be unnecessarily sent to landfill.

“We know this may take some time. We hope REDcycle will allow us to help get the best outcome for the environment and restore community trust in our recycling systems.”

Over the coming months, the three supermarkets will engage stakeholders such as retailers, e-commerce retailers and consumer brands to develop the in-store collection program.

A Soft Plastics Taskforce spokesperson added: “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.

“We thank the Department of Environment, the Minister for Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek, and industry for their support.

“We look forward to their continued contribution as we design this stepping stone towards a circular economy for soft plastic.”

In a joint statement, the supermarkets said that their efforts to launch an in-store collections scheme have been hindered by Australia’s limited access to domestic soft plastic recycling.

The Soft Plastics Taskforce cannot currently recycle soft plastics collected from households in a supermarket program using domestic infrastructure.

It plans to scale up the program over the next 12 months by launching new operators and expanding existing processors.

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