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REDcycle stockpile destined for landfill in NSW

REDcycle's collapse is a problem, but it was only recycling 5% of the soft plastics Australia produced.

REDcycle's collapse is a problem, but it was only recycling 5% of the soft plastics Australia produced. Photo: TND

Woolworths and Coles will be forced to send tonnes of stockpiled REDcycle plastic waste to landfill in NSW.

Last year diligent customers were left furious and the big supermarkets were blindsided by the fact REDcycle had been storing collections from supermarkets in warehouses, rather than recycling the waste.

The program was paused in November and millions of plastic bags were stored in warehouses instead of being recycled.

On Friday, NSW’s Environment Protection Authority ordered Coles and Woolworths to dump some 5200 tonnes of soft plastics that had been sitting in warehouses across the state, the Nine newspapers reported.

Reportedly, the EPA and Fire Rescue NSW were concerned about the potential fire risks posed by the stockpiles.

NSW EPA chief executive Tony Chappel told Nine papers the bales of soft plastic were stored from “floor to the ceiling” at the warehouses, blocking entries and preventing “adequate ventilation.

Mr Chappel also said he understood customers who took their soft plastics to Coles and Woolworths for REDcycle to recycle them would be disappointed.

“Thousands of customers diligently collected soft plastics and dropped them into their local supermarket’s collection bin because they trusted their waste would be diverted from landfill and recycled,” he said.

“The extent of soft-plastic waste sitting in warehouses across NSW is very concerning, and I know customers will be disappointed.”

In a statement to The New Daily, a Coles spokesperson said the company had been working with Government Departments and the NSW & Victorian EPAs to find a solution that would allow Australians to recycle household plastics again. 

“Coles, along with the other members of the Soft Plastics Taskforce, met with REDcycle and the NSW and Victorian EPAs this morning, where REDcycle confirmed their ongoing engagement with the EPAs, to discuss the stockpile situation,” the spokesperson said.

“We were disappointed to learn after the conclusion of the meeting about the draft notice issued by the NSW EPA to Coles, particularly given the more than 200 participants who were also committed to the now collapsed REDcycle Program. 

“We are considering the draft notice and will respond to the NSW EPA within the required notice period.”

A Woolworths spokesperson said the company was “surprised” to receive the draft notice, as REDcycle had “indicated they have plans to deal with these stockpiles”.

We will seek clarity from the NSW EPA on its position in the days ahead,” Woolworths said.

REDCycle scheme collapses

More REDCycle sites uncovered in Victoria

Soft plastics that should have been recycled have been found stored at four more warehouses in Melbourne’s western and northern suburbs.

Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority located the new sites as part of its investigation into the collapsed REDcycle program.

Thousands of tonnes of soft plastic have been discovered at 14 sites across the city, including the four new locations in Laverton, Truganina, Tullamarine and Craigieburn.

EPA officers have already issued an improvement notice on the Truganina site, demanding better emergency access and a reduction in the stockpile.

The Laverton site was inspected on Thursday, with officers considering it to be a high risk due to concerns about the mix of materials.

The Tullamarine and Craigieburn sites are considered low risk.

In December, Victoria’s EPA charged the REDcycle operators – RG Programs and Services – with offences under the Environment Protection Act.

The matter is due before the Sunshine Magistrates Court later in February.

With AAP

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