Life after REDcycle: Australia rolls out curbside recycling for soft plastics to reinvigorate circularity charge
26 Apr 2023 --- Australia has implemented a National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) trial through which residents can recycle their soft plastics curbside in yellow recycling bins.
Since the soft plastic collection scheme REDcycle failed in Australia, the country has been searching for new solutions.
Following the soft plastic stockpiling scandal, Coles, Woolworths and Aldi created an interim organization called the Soft Plastics Taskforce to deal with plastic waste. The supermarkets have been working on their collection schemes.
However, going to a grocery store to deposit soft plastics may not be needed as the proposed bins overhaul shows positive responses from approximately 7,000 households in Victoria, South Australia and NSW.
“While work is continuing as a short-term solution to REDcycle’s suspension, the NPRS project is a long-term solution dealing with large-scale collection and recycling,” says Tanya Barden, the chief executive of the Australia Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).
Australian citizens in the trial areas have received a pack containing 15 orange bags to collect soft plastic packaging. These bags can then be placed into their yellow-lid recycling bins. The system is funded by the Australian government.
“The NPRS is an industry-led scheme where the companies putting soft plastics into the marketplace are taking the lead and providing a real solution,” explains Barden.
The AFGC is running the trial, with the methods being trialed in six councils across three states. The organizers plan to expand the pilot program in other local governments in the coming months.
Soft plastics, such as confectionary wrappers and single-use bags will be sorted, cleaned and shredded, broken down into oil and made into new plastic packaging. The recycling system’s organizers say the soft plastics will be turned into food-grade packaging.
The council has found that those who did not use REDcycles’s drop-off design have used the curbside system. One thousand participants were surveyed, concluding that people favored using the yellow bins for recycling. Sixty percent of respondents had used REDcycle’s program.
The recycling bin program is designed to be a long-term solution to replace in-store collections. Barden explains that the curbside model is more advanced as programs such as REDcycle’s could not solve large-scale soft plastics recycling.
“While work is continuing on a short-term solution to REDcycle’s suspension, the NPRS project is a long-term solution dealing with large-scale collection and recycling,” she states.
According to the AFGC, the NPRS is stepping in to create a circular plastics loop and a cleaner recycling stream, unlike current options. The NPRS plans for the new scheme to be funded by industries that use soft plastics, with food and grocery manufacturers paying toward the cost of collection and administration.
However, Australian residents’ trust may be broken due to REDcycle’s stockpiling scandal, where it was falsely collecting plastics for “recycling” but storing them in hidden locations. The Australian government has found 44 stockpile areas to date.
REDcycle’s failure “has the potential to shake the public’s confidence in their recycling efforts and could undermine the efforts to boost recycling to higher and significant levels as a part of the efforts to reduce waste and boost circularity of plastics,” Edward Kosior, founder of Nextek, previously told PackagingInsights.
By Sabine Waldeck
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