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.
Coles has taken a step toward being Australia’s most sustainable supermarket, due to its commitments to continue reducing packaging and food waste as well as greenhouse emissions.
On World Environment Day on June 5, the supermarket giant announced its been one year since it unveiled Coles is driving generational sustainability part of the Group’s transformation strategy.
To date, Coles customers and team members have recycled 997 million pieces of soft plastic through REDCycle and donated grocery essentials to the retail value of $7.9 million to vulnerable Australians during COVID-19.
Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve, who leads Coles’ sustainability strategy, said the Group’s efforts have been due to over 115,000 team members serving more than 20 million customers every week, who “have a material impact on our ability to implement sustainable practices in the communities in which we operate”.
“Whether it’s making a donation at the checkout to SecondBite or dropping off soft plastics at a Coles REDCycle bin, each one of our customers are helping achieve our mission to become the most sustainable supermarket in Australia,” Keeve said.
Over the past 12 months Coles has made further progress on its commitments to increase the proportion of energy it sources from renewables and implement more sustainable processes across its stores.
“By using energy more efficiently and investing in renewable energy projects, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by more than 35 per cent since 2009, including a six per cent reduction in the 2019 financial year alone,” Keeve said.
Coles has installed solar panels on 38 supermarkets since June 2019, increasing the total number of on-site solar electricity generation facilities to 68, while construction has also commenced on three new solar power plants based in regional New South Wales, from which Coles will purchase the equivalent of 10 per cent of its national electricity consumption.
In the past two months Coles has also opened two of its most sustainable supermarkets with Coles Local in Melbourne’s Hawthorn and Sydney’s Rose Bay.
Coles said that these stores feature team member uniforms made from 65 per cent recycled bottles, trolleys made partly from recycled plastic and free reclaimed customer carry boxes as an alternative to bags.
Coles stated it plans to roll these sustainability initiatives to more of its stores over the coming months.
One of Australia’s largest online fashion retailers has announced it will start transitioning to delivery satchels made from 100 per cent post-consumer plastic waste.
In a social media post on Tuesday 26 May, THE ICONIC stated that it’s the first major Australian and New Zealand retailer to make the move to 100 per cent recycled plastic satchels.
Via REDcycle, a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation who has developed and implemented a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic, THE ICONIC will minimise its environmental impact.
“From today we’re transitioning to more sustainable satchels. This means your next order sent by THE ICONIC warehouse will be delivered in a satchel made of 100 per cent post-consumer plastic waste – recycled plastic that has had a previous life and can be recycled again,” the company said in an online statement.
“Achieving 100 per cent recycled content wasn’t easy in our usual black design, so we’ve made the switch to white! Bringing this project to life has been an incredible journey and involved many cross-functional teams.”
Since 2018, THE ICONIC has been a signatory of the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO).
“A huge congratulations to APCO Member, THE ICONIC, for the launch of its new delivery satchels, made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and fully recyclable via REDcycle bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets,” APCO said in a social media post on Tuesday.
“This is a significant commitment and is a perfect example of the work being undertaken across the industry to avoid the use of virgin plastics and create end markets for recycled materials.”
The satchels are certified by the GECA (Good Environmental Choice Australia) Recycled Products Standard to verify their recycled content and ensure they meet specific social and environmental criteria.
“It’s a bold move, but it’s a testament to our sustainability commitments. In the same way, because we are committed to avoiding unnecessary waste, our transition from our former black packaging to new white packaging will take a few months,” the company said in an online statement.
“This is a huge milestone for us on our journey towards meeting our 2022 Sustainable Packaging Targets.”
THE ICONIC set five sustainable packaging targets to meet by 2022, including 100 per cent of THE ICONIC’s shipping packaging made of recycled content and private label primary packaging materials will be fully recyclable in Australia, 80 per cent of THE ICONIC’s private label paper and cardboard packaging will be made from verified recycled pulp and have on-package communication about their sustainability or recyclability and lastly, 70 per cent more of THE ICONIC’s private label poly bags made of recycled plastic.
During THE ICONIC’s search for a more sustainable alternative, its sustainability team and Packaging Working Group investigated multiple materials and even tested a home-compostable satchel.
“Despite being one of our best performers, most customers in Australia and New Zealand don’t have access to composting at home nor access to commercial compost services,” THE ICONIC stated.
“It means packaging would likely end up in landfill or in the soft plastics recycling stream, compromising its potential for recycling. That’s why we landed on our 100 per cent recycled post-consumer plastic satchels,
“To align with this framework, we are working on packaging sustainability holistically: our in-house sustainability team developed a dedicated packaging strategy, reviewed over 80 per cent of the packaging we are directly responsible for, and developed THE ICONIC Supplier Sustainable Packaging Guidelines and Private Label Sustainable Packaging Requirements to tackle our non-customer facing packaging strategy,” the company stated on its website.
THE ICONIC said that packaging plays an essential product-protection role in ensuring that its customers’ items arrive in pristine condition.
“This way, your new purchase can have a long life in your wardrobe and warrant the original investment of natural resources in production. The cost of not protecting these items can be more detrimental than if they weren’t packaged sufficiently,” THE ICONIC stated.
With rapidly growing collection rates and rising public awareness, REDcycle relies on convenient compaction from Wastech Engineering.
When Downer opened its new soft plastics asphalt plant in June, Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser highlighted the facility’s ability to process thousands of tonnes of sustainable road material each year.
For every kilometre of two-lane Reconophalt road, the facilities flagship product, 530,000 equivalent plastic bags are diverted from landfill and repurposed into roadbase.
Australia’s infrastructure boom, paired with a renewed government focus on sustainable procurement, suggests Downer will require a consistent flow of soft plastic to meet demand.
Industry led product stewardship scheme REDcycle, which supplies the soft plastics used to produce Reconophalt, has collection bins in every Coles and Woolworths supermarket in the country.
According to the Coles 2019 Sustainability Report, since beginning in 2011, REDcycle has diverted more than 715 million pieces of flexible plastic from landfill. In the 2019 financial year, the volume of soft plastics collected by the program grew by 32 per cent.
Elizabeth Kasell, RED Group Director, says the program aims to provide Australian consumers with an alternative disposal option for plastic packaging that can’t be recovered through kerbside recycling.
To ensure material quality, Elizabeth says REDcycle operate a range of Bramidan Balers, supplied by Wastech Engineering.
“Another recycler recommended the Bramidan Baler range to us over 10 years ago, and REDcycle has been using them exclusively ever since,” she says.
According to Elizabeth, baling the material REDcycle collects is the most efficient transport option for the program, given soft plastic’s irregularity and tendency to hold air.
“At most of the stores, around 80 percent, the material is collected directly by us. We do have some regional stores that are well covered through a reverse logistics process,” Elizabeth says.
“After the plastic arrives at the depot, we conduct initial decontamination and sorting before baling the material and sending it to end market clients such as Downer and recycled plastic manufacturers Replas and Plastic Forests.”
Elizabeth says the compaction rate of Wastech’s Bramidan Baler range is well suited to film plastics.
“Due to the nature of our material, REDcycle compact’s a lot of plastic bags that are full of air, and the compaction rate of Bramidan Balers alleviates potential issues,” she says.
“We have multiple Bramidan Balers that have been running all day Monday to Friday for years, and they’re still in operation – they are very reliable.”
Elizabeth says the volume received at REDcycle depots is increasing, so the operational reliability of its Bramidan Balers is crucial. She adds that customers are dropping off roughly a million pieces of plastic each day, with the weight of bales produced by REDcycle averaging 260-290 kilos.
“We’ve been working with Wastech for many years, and while we know there are other balers on the market, their product is perfectly suited to our process,” she says.
“Plus, the support we get from Wastech ensures we can keep our processes operating at maximum capacity.”
Lion Group has become the first major brewer in Australia to partner with REDcycle, a national soft plastic recycling initiatives.
REDcycle collects and reuses soft plastics unsuitable for kerbside recycling, with 2000 drops-off points at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets throughout Australia.
According to Lion CEO Stuart Irvine, over 2.75 tonnes of Lion packaging was returned by consumers between July and December 2018.
“For more than 20 years, Lion has invested in reducing litter, improving recyclability and increasing the use of recycled content in our packaging,” Mr Irvine said.
“In the beer industry, plastic rings have been a real focal point in the war on plastic, and Lion was well and truly ahead of the curve in phasing out these rings 10 years ago, with the last plastic rings removed from Lion-owned products over three years ago. This is something we are very proud of.”
The partnership with will see Lion add the REDcycle logo to its soft plastic packaging over the next 18 months.
Mr Irvine said Lion is also evaluating alternative packaging technologies to further reduce the company’s reliance on single-use plastics.
“We are also working with industry partners, such as the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, to develop broader industry solutions that minimise the impact of our packaging and promote the circular economy to minimise waste in the environment,” Mr Irvine said.
“While we work our way through these big supply chain changes, actively supporting programs such as REDcycle helps raise awareness and encourages our consumers to ramp up their recycling efforts.”
In addition to developing its own recyclable products and reducing unnecessary packaging, Woolworths is working towards a zero food waste future.
PepsiCo ANZ has partnered with REDcycle to help convert chip packets into furniture, bollards, signage and other sturdy products.
Consumers will be able to drop off chip packets and other soft plastics at participating supermarkets, which will go to REDcycle’s processing partner Replas to turn into fitness circuits, outdoor furniture and bollards.
- PepsiCo, Nestlé Waters, Danone to develop bio-based bottles
- Global initiative of 290 companies to end plastic waste
- Scrunching the issue of soft plastics
These recycled plastic products will be purchased by PepsiCo and donated to parks, public places and schools.
One of PepsiCo’s global Performance with Purpose goals is to achieve zero waste to landfill in direct operations by 2025 through efficient and responsible waste management.
Partnering with REDcycle complements PepsiCo’s strategy to design out waste by minimising the amount of materials used in packaging.
PepsiCo ANZ Environment Manager Janine Cannell said the company is pleased to be working with REDcycle.
“This is a great opportunity for us to recover what would otherwise go to landfill and use the recycled materials to better the communities we operate in,” Ms Cannell said.
REDcycle Director Liz Kasell said the company is delighted to have PepsiCo as REDcycle partners and looks forward to seeing what we can create using recycled materials.
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has compiled a comprehensive gap analysis on the market barriers to recovering soft plastics. Waste Management Review sat down with APCO’s Brooke Donnelly to discuss how it fits into the broader plastics issue.
New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.
The new targets aim to aim to increase the average recycled content within all packaging by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.
Additionally, the targets aim to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.
These build on the previous announcement of a target to achieve 100 per cent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
- Planet Ark provide councils packaging recycling label webinars
- Championing packaging sustainability
- Nestlé’s packaging plan
The targets build on commitments made by federal, state and territory environment ministers and the President for the Australian Local Government Association earlier in April this year.
Industry representatives and environmental groups support the targets including Aldi, ALGA, Amcor, Australia Post, Boomerang Alliance, Chep, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Detmold, Goodman Fielder, Lion, Metcash, Nestlé, Orora, Pact Group, Planet Ark, Redcycle, Simplot, Suez, Tetra Pak, Unilever, Veolia, Visy and Woolworths.
Woolworths General Manager, Quality and Sustainability Alex Holt highlighted the importance of this collaboration.
“We’re really pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal. Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” Mr Holt said.
Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price congratulated the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the initial working group of businesses that are supporting the targets.
Minister Price has also officially launched the Australasian recycling Label to help achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.
“The Australasian Recycling Label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in. The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” Ms Price said.
With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australia, the new system aims to reduce confusion and contamination in the waste stream.
Nestlé Head of Corporate and External Relations Oceania Margaret Stuart said the inclusion of the label on Netslé’s packaging was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to sustainability.
“More and more people who buy our products want to know how to manage packing waste, so we have committed to implementing the Australasian Recycling Label across all our locally controlled products by 2020,” Ms Stuart said.
Unilever ANZ CEO Clive Stiff has said the announcements are a critical step towards greater collective action on increasing the nationals recycling capability.
“Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year. The benefits of the circular economy approach are clear for business and the environment – the more effective use of materials means lower costs and less waste,” Mr Stiff said.
“We are proud to have recently announced that bottles of popular Unilever products like OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf and TRESemmé will soon be made with at least 25% Australian recycled plastic.
“This is just the start for us and no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”
Waste Management Review speaks to RED Group’s Rebecca Gleghorn about the success of its soft plastics recycling program.