Australian supermarkets approved to form recycling taskforce

AUSTRALIA – The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has approved a task force to address soft plastic recycling in Australia.

The approval comes after 3 leading retailers (Coles, Woolworths and Aldi) lodged an urgent application for interim authorization to form the Soft Plastics Taskforce.

It came after REDcycle, the country’s leading soft plastic recycling scheme, suspended its soft plastics collection program on 9 November as its recycling partners temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics.

In a statement, REDcycle said: “Due to several unforeseen challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, REDcycle’s recycling partners have temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics. This combination has put untenable pressure on the REDcycle business model.”

In response to REDcycle’s announcement, Coles and Woolworths both suspended soft plastics collections from their stores.

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said: “We have moved quickly to approve the interim application as the suspension of the REDcycle program stopped in-store collections of soft plastic, raising community concerns and an urgent need to address the environmental risk of the existing stockpile and future waste.”

The interim authorization allows the supermarkets to develop and implement a short-term solution for the storage, transportation, processing, recycling, and/or management of soft plastics.

The task force will be initially chaired by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water.

Keogh added: “This interim authorization allows co-operation between the major supermarket retailers for a limited period and for the particular purpose of exploring options for the storage, transport, processing, recycling and management of soft plastics to minimize the volume that may end up in landfill, which is of great benefit to us all.

“The ACCC expects the applicants to resolve this situation urgently and has placed several reporting conditions on them to ensure we are informed of their progress.”

The interim authorization will remain effective until it is revoked or the application for authorization is withdrawn.

Launched by Melbourne mum Liz Kasell a decade ago, REDcycle has successfully recycled millions of pieces of soft plastic over that period.

Earlier this year, The Australian Government partnered with the Australian Capital Territory Government to develop a material recovery facility in Hume, Australia.

The two governments co-invested A$23 million (US$15.9m) through the Australian Government’s Recycling Modernization Fund (RMF) to develop the material recovery facility (MRF).

Located in Hume next to an existing MRF, the facility is intended to drive the ACT’s circular economy by providing advanced waste management and recycling facilities.

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