Coles saves one billion pieces of plastic from landfill

Australian supermarket giant Coles has reached a milestone of one billion pieces of soft plastics recycled through its partnership with REDcycle, a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic.

Since 2011, Coles has worked with sustainability partner REDcycle to recycle plastic bags and soft plastic packaging such as biscuit packets, lolly bags, frozen food bags and bread, rice and pasta bags which cannot be recycled through most kerbside recycling services.

“The milestone coincides with Coles’ first Sustainability Week as a publicly-owned company and aligns with its strategic objective to become Australia’s most sustainable supermarket,” Coles said in a statement on Tuesday.

With the program now collecting an average of 121 tonnes, or 30 million pieces of plastic every month, Coles customers have returned the one billionth piece of plastic to the REDcycle bins within its supermarkets in June.

Liz Kasell, founder of Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation Red Group and the REDcycle program, said Coles has helped keep plastic bags and soft plastic packaging out of landfill for nearly 10 years as part of the initiative.

In 2018, Coles became the first national supermarket retailer to have REDcycle bins in every store for customers to donate soft plastics, which are transformed by manufacturers such as Replas into a range of recycled products including outdoor furniture for community groups.

To support its recycling initiatives, REDcycle received a $430,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund to increase the amount of soft plastic it collects for recycling. The funds, which it received this year, allowed the company to purchase new processing technology and three new collection vehicles.

Coles’ soft plastics collected by REDcycle are also recycled into an asphalt additive for roads by Melbourne manufacturer Close the Loop and into garden edging by Albury business Plastic Forests.

This month, Coles supported another recycling solution for soft plastics by providing a $300,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund to Plastic Forests to manufacture steel-reinforced plastic posts which can be used for fencing by farmers including those affected by bushfires.

Coles Chief Property & Export Officer Thinus Keeve, who leads Coles’ sustainability strategy said its recycling efforts are a fantastic achievement by its customers and team members.

“It’s also an important step in helping to drive generational sustainability in Australia,” he said.

According to the supermarket group, as a major food retailer, many of Coles’ sustainability initiatives are focused on waste reduction.

Coles further reduces the volume of food waste sent to landfill by donating fruit, vegetables and bakery products that are no longer suitable to eat to livestock farmers and animal shelters, with more than thirteen million kilograms donated to farmers in FY19.

Coles is also working with bakery supplier Goodman Fielder on an initiative to recycle surplus Coles Brand bread that cannot be used by our food charity partners by processing into breadcrumbs and bread meal, an ingredient in pet foods such as dog biscuits.

Following a successful pilot earlier this year, the program is now being rolled out to over 200 stores, to further support repurposing unsold Coles Brand bread away from waste.

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