Many of you will have heard the unfortunate and sad news that REDCycle has put their soft plastics collections on hold.
What should I do with my soft plastic now?
For the short-term, we advise residents to place soft plastic wrappers and bags in your landfill bin (red or blue lid). Please do not place any soft wrap-able plastic packaging or bags in your yellow bin as they wrap, tangle and clog up sorting machinery and contaminate the paper and cardboard stream.
We can’t simply recycle or wishcycle our way out of the overproduction and overconsumption of plastics, we need to understand the complex situation and find more sustainable solutions.
Why is the program on hold?
Since 2019 there has been a 350% increase in soft plastics (including shopping bags, pet food bags, ice cream wrappers, bubble wrap and frozen food packaging) being returned to 2,000 supermarkets across the country. At the same time there has been a significant decrease in the market demand for recycled products which has led to stockpiling of the materials. Industry, Councils and community need to buy more back.
Last week their main partner, Replas, who remanufacturer the soft plastics into outdoor furniture, bollards and decking, stopped accepting plastics. Also contributing to this was the significant fire at a recycling facility operated by its partner, Close the Loop, which was converting soft plastics into asphalt additives and binding agents. In February 2021 they lost another small-scale recycling partner, Plastic Forests, that made garden planting kits.
Whilst the media is talking about the stockpiling and failings of a company that was single-handedly trying to solve a huge problem, we should be focusing on the real failings of the packaging industry as the producer as well the lack of legislation to mandate recycled content in products. Producers of plastic packaging need to take the material back, through a product stewardship scheme which invests directly in facilities that will accept and remanufacture it into recycled packaging.
We also need to look further up the waste hierarchy for solutions and focus our efforts on avoiding and reducing plastic packaging. We need to support consumers and businesses to implement reuse and refilling options that are easily accessible, economically, and environmentally sustainable.
Please consider ways you can avoid and reduce plastic packaging through reusable and refillable bags and containers. Many supermarkets and bulk food stores offer plastic package free options. Click here for a list of where you can go to be part of the solution.