Coles to become Australia’s most sustainable supermarket

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.

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APCO releases June webinar schedule

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has released the June schedule for its Weekly Community Webinar series.

Launched in March, the webinars are designed to bring together professionals across the business, government and environmental communities and help the sustainable packaging community stay connected during lockdown.

To date, the sessions have been attended by more than 1800 professionals discussing topics ranging from sustainable packaging design and green communications, through to compostable packaging best practice and the importance of a packaging sustainability strategy and action plan.

APCO CEO Brooke Donnelly said despite lockdown presenting a number of serious challenges, progress is still occurring. She added that the willingness of thousands of industry professionals to come together every week to collaborate and learn “is a powerful demonstration of that.”

“It has been so rewarding to be joined by hundreds of professionals every week who are equally as engaged and passionate about this space. We look forward to seeing even more of you in June and July,” Donnelly said.

Webinar schedules will be released monthly. June’s schedule, including links to register, is available below:

3 June: World Environment Day special: Building a career in sustainability

This week is World Environment Day (5 June), the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.

To celebrate, APCO is discussing what it takes to build a career in sustainability and how to deliver impactful sustainability initiatives and actions.

Speakers: Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia’s Andrew Peterson, APCO’s 2019 Sustainability Champion Award winner and Endeavour Drinks Group Sustainability Manager Diarmaid O’Mordha and Fiona Baxter, Packaging Development manager from Simplot.

To register click here.

10 June: Topic Deep Dive: Soft plastics

This week will discuss one of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – for the recycling system: getting Australia’s approach to soft plastics right.

Topics for discussion include practical actions brands can take around soft plastics, challenges and opportunities for meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets, the critical role of closing the loop by buying back the end product and the vision for soft plastics recycling in Australia.

To register click here.

17 June: Science Based Targets

As companies worldwide strive to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with commitments made under the 2015 Paris agreement, Science Based Targets (SBTs) are emerging as an effective benchmark by which to plan and review progress towards a low-carbon business model.

A growing number of APCO members have made public commitments to SBTs, establishing a whole-of-business agenda for delivering emissions reductions.

Topics for discussion include challenges and opportunities for packaging to reduce the carbon footprint of a business, and how businesses can use SBTs in partnership with other APCO tools and resources.

Speakers will include leading practitioners of SBTs, including Jonas Bengtsson, CEO of Edge Environment.

To register click here.

24 June: Launching APCO’s FY21 Priority Projects

This week, APCO will unveil its new Priority Projects schedule. In 2021, APCO will facilitate 23 new projects developed to drive targeted and tangible progress on Australia’s 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The program was developed in consultation with, and will be overseen by, APCO’s 2020 Working Groups – a community of more than 160 participants, representing the entire packaging supply chain.

Topics for discussion include an overview of this year’s priority projects, and how each project connects to Our Packaging Future – the strategic framework for how Australia will deliver the 2025 Targets. The session will also cover insights for how organisations can contribute to and participate in this work.

To register click here.

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City of Parramatta trials Reconophalt roads

City of Parramatta Council in NSW is trialling two innovative sustainable road solutions aimed at reducing waste materials and combatting heat.

In the first of these trials, Chelmsford Avenue in Epping and Honor Street in Ermington were resurfaced with Reconophalt.

Manufactured by Downer, the product contains recycled soft plastics from plastic bags and packaging, waste glass and waste toner from used printer cartridges.

According to City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer, single-use plastics and other waste materials are a growing problem for the region.

“Finding new ways to recycle and reuse materials means we can reduce the amount of waste that ultimately enters landfill,” he said.

“By taking tonnes of plastic and glass from local recycling plants and using it to create roads, we are able to turn trash into treasured infrastructure.”

Downer Pavements General Manager Stuart Billing said the equivalent of approximately 500,000 plastic bags, 165,000 glass bottles and 12,500 toner cartridges are diverted from landfill for every one kilometre of a two-lane Reconophalt road.

“Together with the City of Parramatta, we are creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use, and reducing the community’s reliance upon increasingly scarce virgin materials,” he said.

The project is partially funded through the NSW Planning, Industry and Environment Department’s ‘Waste Less, Recycle More’ initiative.

The second trial, which is being conducted in partnership with Blacktown and Campbelltown councils and Western Sydney University, will examine how lighter coloured roads can help reduce the amount of heat being absorbed and retained by roads on hot days.

“As Western Sydney can be several degrees hotter than suburbs in the east, it is crucial we explore ways we can keep our streets cooler – especially in the summer,” Mayor Dwyer said.

“Parramatta is going through an incredible period of growth and transformation, and council is dedicated to building a sustainable and innovative city that will meet the needs of our community well into the future. These road projects are just two examples of how we are achieving this.”

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Downer opens soft plastics asphalt plant in Lake Macquarie

Plastic bags, recycled glass and printer toner will be used in the construction of new Hunter roads as part of a $5 million overhaul of Downer’s asphalt plant in Teralba, Lake Macquarie.

Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser officially opened the site this week, with the ability to process thousands of tonnes each year of sustainable road and pavement materials for the Hunter Region and Central Coast.

The facility is one of the most advanced of its kind in Australia, capable of producing a wide range of products including asphalt containing recycled tyre rubber and Reconophalt, an innovative asphalt product that contains high recycled content from materials such as soft plastics, glass, toner and reclaimed road.

The soft plastics are collected through the RedCycle program, which has collection bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, while waste toner used in the product comes from the national Planet Ark recycling initiative.

Every kilometre of two-lane road made with Reconophalt contains the equivalent of 530,000 plastic bags, 168,000 glass bottles and 12,500 toner cartridges.

Cr Fraser said today’s opening, which coincides with World Environment Day, bolstered Lake Macquarie’s reputation for encouraging and embracing sustainable businesses and practices.

“I congratulate Downer on investing in new methods to close the loop on recycled materials,” Cr Fraser said.

“In the past 12 months in Lake Mac, we’ve seen the introduction of recycled glass sand in Council’s civil works, a trial of recycled materials in concrete footpaths and now this next step in our war on waste.”

Downer’s Executive General Manager Road Services, Dante Cremasco, said the milestone event held on World Environment Day demonstrates the importance of partnerships with councils and road authorities to maximise sustainable outcomes for the future growth of the region.

“The innovation our new Teralba asphalt plant brings will see us not only lower our carbon footprint, but also incorporate new streams of recycled materials into the asphalt we lay, further improving sustainable outcomes for the region’s local communities and their roads,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Downer’s investment in this flexible pavement products manufacturing hub allows us to reduce our reliance on increasingly scarce virgin materials by over 30 per cent and improve our energy consumption by up to 15 per cent, which are really pleasing outcomes for the region.”

Testing of the new Reconophalt material showed it lasted longer and was less prone to deformation than traditional forms of asphalt.

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First SA road built with plastic bags and glass

The first South Australian road built with soft plastics and glass at Happy Valley in the City of Onkaparinga will utilise plastic from approximately 139,000 plastic bags and packaging and 39,750 glass bottle equivalents.

Downer and City of Onkaparinga have partnered with resource recovery and recycling companies Close the Loop and RED Group for the project, following similar projects in NSW and Victoria.

Along with soft plastics and glass, toner from about 3200 used printer cartridges and more than 50 tonnes of recycled asphalt were also repurposed to create 265 tonnes of asphalt used to construct the road along Caribbean Crescent in Happy Valley.

Downer Executive General Manager Road Services Dante Cremasco said the milestone event demonstrated the importance of partnerships with other thought leaders to create economic, social and environmental value for products that would more than likely end up in landfill, stockpiled, or as a pollutant in natural environments.

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“Together with City of Onkaparinga and our partners, we have proven that with thought leadership and the tenacity to make a positive difference, we have set a new benchmark in the state when it comes to sustainability by creating new avenues to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new streams of use. It’s all about pulling products, not pushing waste,” Mr Cremasco said.

“Further to the direct sustainability benefits, this cost competitive road product called Reconophalt has enhanced properties of improved strength and resistance to deformation making the road last longer, andallowing it to better handle heavy vehicle traffic,” Mr Cremasco added.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said this is an exciting South Australian first and demonstrates council’s commitment to working with industry on innovative and cost-effective solutions to a changing operating environment.

“The City of Onkaparinga manages and maintains over 1350 kilometres of sealed roads and works hard to ensure they’re well maintained as cost effectively as possible and in line with leading asset management principles,” Mayor Thompson said.

“We also collect approximately 14,000 tonnes of recyclables every year. Major disruptions in international markets for recyclables over the last 12 months present significant challenges, as well as emerging opportunities.”

“Creating local demand for recyclables products is one such opportunity and this is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by government working with industry.”

Downer partnered closely with Close the Loop to tailor waste products such as soft plastics to suit a road construction application.

“Our close partnership with Downer, along with our collaborative partnership with RED Group has allowed us to design, develop and manufacture sustainable products using problematic waste streams. We are very pleased to see soft plastics used for the first time in a SA road,” said Nerida Mortlock, General Manager of Close the Loop Australia.

Recycled glass and soft plastics trial on ACT Govt road

ACT Roads Minister Chris Steel has announced a trial of a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics as part of the state government’s annual resurfacing program in October.

Plastiphalt – a material composed of recycled glass and soft plastics – will be trialled on existing sections of Horse Park Drive and Gundaroo Drive during the ACT Government’s $16 million 2018-19 road resurfacing program.

“For every tonnes of Plastiphalt placed, the equivalent of 800 plastic bags, 252 glass bottles and 18 used printer toner cartridges will not find their way to landfills,” Mr Steel said.

Three-hundred kilograms of recycled asphalt is also used for every tonne of the material.

The 2018-19 resurfacing program will see approximately 230 lane kilometres, or approximately 1,000,000 square metres of roads resurfaced, across the ACT road network.

“The resealing program is an important part of the maintenance of Canberra’s roads as it covers small cracks and imperfections which could cause potholes and overall deterioration. It protects and extends the life of our roads and improves road safety,” Mr Steel said.

The program of works is expected to be completed by April next year.

The City of Sydney to trial weekly e-waste pickups

The City of Sydney will trial separate weekly residential rubbish collections for food waste and textiles and introduce weekly e-waste pickups.

It says the plan is part of the “most comprehensive strategy” to tackle residential waste in Australia.

Council unanimously approved the collections as part of its new Leave Nothing to Waste strategy. The council said residents and businesses strongly supported its ambitious target of zero waste to landfill when the strategy was open for comment earlier this year.

The new services include a trial of residential food waste collection – targeted groups of residents can opt-in to have their food waste collected separately and taken to a facility. From there, it will be converted into high grade compost or energy. The services also include clothing and textiles collection from apartment buildings, where residents will be able to throw all their old clothing in a communal waste bin, which will then be collected and recycled. A weekly kerbside electronic waste collection will also be introduced and residents will be able to book in a free pick-up each week, with their old electronics taken to a facility where precious minerals and materials will be collected and reused. Finally, the plan includes a community drop-off centre for problem waste streams such as gas bottles, paints and chemicals.

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Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the plan would set a new benchmark for residential waste collection across the country.

“Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about where their rubbish ends up, which is why our new waste strategy has been so well received,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Our residents generate close to 65,000 tonnes of waste every year – and while 69 per cent is now diverted from landfill, we’re now taking practical steps to increase that to 90 per cent by 2030.

Mayor Moore said cheap clothing and fast fashion has led to a sharp growth in textile waste. He said more than five per cent of the average red bin is made up of clothing.

“Our textiles collection trial will seek to solve this waste stream, with separate clothing bins to become a feature of bin rooms in many apartment buildings across the city.”

“Although we had broad support for all the measures we’ve proposed, our residents have shown great interest in the food waste trial, which we will strive to get up and running over the next two years.

“Food waste makes up one third of the average red bin and can be converted into a valuable resource. Some of our residents have already taken matters into their own hands.”

As a result of feedback from community consultation, the council will also investigate including soft plastics on the list of items to be accepted at the community waste drop-off centre.

“The ABC’s War on Waste program put the spotlight on how harmful soft plastics can be. Residents and businesses have asked us to look at how the City can help keep soft plastics such as shopping bags out of landfill and waterways.

“We will continue to pressure the NSW Government to ban the plastic bag,” the Lord Mayor said.

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