Soft Plastics Recycling Trial starts in 12 Melbourne suburbs

Soft plastics recycling returned to 12 Melbourne suburbs last week as part of a trial to rebuild a national soft plastics recycling system.

The trial has been developed through the Soft Plastics Taskforce and will operate across Melbourne supermarkets – five Woolworths, five Coles and two ALDI.

Each of the 12 supermarkets taking part in the trial will have a collection bin with a yellow sign positioned at the front of the store.

A spokesperson for the Soft Plastics Taskforce said the trial is an important first step in testing the emerging soft plastic recycling industry and ensure the model works on a small scale before working towards a national industry-wide solution.

“We encourage shoppers in these 12 Melbourne suburbs to drop off their weekly household soft plastic recycling during their regular shop to help put the system to the test,” the spokesperson said.

“We know people were let down by REDcycle, and we’re managing this process carefully to ensure that the program which eventually replaces it is one the community can trust.

“The biggest challenge still remains – there are simply not enough soft plastic recyclers up and running to allow us to expand collections to supermarkets across the country just yet.”

The recycling bins are available at:

  • Balwyn Woolworths
  • Box Hill Woolworths
  • Burwood Brickworks Woolworths
  • Carnegie North Woolworths
  • Hawthorn East Woolworths
  • Brunswick Coles
  • Flemington Coles
  • Ivanhoe Coles
  • Moonee Ponds Coles
  • Northcote Coles
  • Prahran ALDI
  • St Kilda ALDI

A lack of specialised soft plastic recycling capacity in Australia was revealed as the catalyst behind REDcycle’s stockpiling and ultimate collapse in 2022. During the past year, the Taskforce has engaged with recycling businesses to keep track of new soft plastic recycling capacity in development.

Recently, new soft plastic recycling facilities by Close the Loop and CRDC global have been opened in Melbourne, marking the first meaningful increase in local recycling capacity since the collapse of REDcycle. The Taskforce spokesperson said this new capacity has enabled the launch of the Soft Plastics Recycling Trial.

Soft plastics will be picked up from each store by a third party, which will then bale and transport the materials to recycling partners in the local area. Soft plastics will then be sorted, weighed and processed into a variety of products.

Each recycling partner will be required to provide data on the material they receive and the recycled material they create with it. Site inspections and audits will be conducted to ensure that expectations are being met.

The objective of the trial is to test the pilot model developed by the supermarkets, as well as the processes and capacity of the recycling operators.

The spokesperson said it is crucial shoppers only drop off small volumes of soft plastic in line with what a regular household would generate in a week, to avoid overwhelming the soft plastic recyclers which have only just opened their doors.

A potential hurdle to the effective recycling of the soft plastics deposited in the trial bins is contamination. The addition of non-soft plastics such as paper, hard plastic, nappies or food may result in the rest of the contents of the bin not being able to be recycled. The Taskforce will closely monitor contamination levels.

The spokesperson urged customers outside the trial area not to bring their soft plastics into non-participating stores as these stores do not have access to the specialised recycling stream and the material will instead need to go to landfill.

The Taskforce will monitor the results of the trial and continued increases in local recycling capacity across various states to determine when it is possible to expand in store soft plastic collections to new supermarkets. Additional soft plastic recycling facilities are expected to open in the next 12-18 months.