Australia, Latest News, News, Waste & Resource Recovery

How a supermarket diverted 1 billion pieces of plastic from landfill

Coles supermarkets and sustainability partner REDcycle have diverted more than 1 billion pieces of soft plastics from landfill.

This includes 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 program presently collects an average of 121 tonnes – or 30 million pieces of plastic every month.

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. Meanwhile, 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 and export officer Thinus Keeve, leads Coles’ sustainability strategy, said that customers have told the company that recycling is important to them.

“One billion pieces of soft plastics recycled is a fantastic achievement by our customers and team members. It’s also an important step in helping to drive generational sustainability in Australia,” he said.

Keeve explained that Coles’ sustainability initiatives are focused on waste reduction, including through partnerships with food rescue organisations SecondBite and Foodbank to collect and distribute edible, unsold food to Australians in need.

Last month, SecondBite reported nine out of 10 of their food relief charity partners surveyed across Australia had been impacted by COVID-19 and more than 80% have witnessed an increase in demand for food relief.

The company also 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.

As part of Sustainability Week, the supermarkets are now reaching out to local farmers and customers to expand this program.