At the Lane Cove Council December 2022 meeting, it was resolved to look into alternatives for soft plastic recycling.
Lane Cove residents have been extremely diligent in recycling their soft plastics and the now defunct REDcycle had to schedule more picks up from Lane Cove Supermarkets.
On 8 November 2022, REDcycle posted a notice on their website advising that they were pausing their operations and would not be collecting soft plastics from Coles or Woolworths.
REDcycle took this action after the Sydney Morning Herald contacted them to ask questions about plastics being stockpiled rather than being used to make other products (like asphalt, trolleys, furniture and plastic bollards). You can read the SMH article here (it is paywalled).
On 9 December 2022, EPA Victoria released a press release about their continuing investigations into REDcycle. EPA Victoria discovered about three thousand tonnes of soft plastics in six warehouses across Melbourne.
An information-gathering notice issued by EPA to the operators of REDcycle uncovered warehouses managed by logistics companies in Melbourne’s western and northern suburbs.
The soft plastics found in the Melbourne warehouses are thought to have come from outside of Victoria. EPA officers continue to work with interstate colleagues, and it is believed that additional sites could exist across Victoria and the country.
EPA CEO Lee Miezis said officers are acting quickly to ensure fire risk mitigation is in place in all sites to reduce the possibility of harm to local communities and the businesses that have been left with this soft plastic waste. Fires in recycling factories are not uncommon, last week, there was a fire at the Cleanaway Artarmon Transfer station – read more here.
“Our officers are out inspecting sites today and we’ll continue to work hard – using our stronger regulatory powers – until we’re certain we’ve found every site in Victoria. We will not allow unacceptable risks to Victoria’s community or environment from pollution or waste.
“Although the operators of REDcycle did tell us about some of the sites, intelligence from logistics companies and others is assisting EPA’s investigations. If you have any of these soft plastic wastes at your warehouse, we need to know.’’
“For your safety and for the safety of your employees, business and local community, you must make sure that you’re complying with our environmental laws.’’
In May this year, EPA officers found a warehouse containing soft plastics in Williamstown North, under the control of the operators of REDcycle. The site was brought into compliance after EPA intervened and further regulatory action against the company has led to this larger discovery.
It was, therefore timely that Lane Cove Council investigate an alternative soft plastic recycling program as it is now impossible to recycle soft plastics in Lane Cove.
Councillors Kennedy and Bryla moved the motion and noted there are smaller recycling programs, one of which is Curby (Curbyit.com) which operates in four councils in NSW: Central Coast, Willoughby, Mosman and City of Newcastle.
In addition, Hornsby and Albury council have made arrangements for recycling their soft use plastic, Hornsby at a drop off point at The Thornleigh Community Recycling Centre for their residents and Albury in a trial with Halfwaste.
It was resolved that Lane Cove Council would do the following:
1. Council contact Curby to discuss Lane Cove council adopting soft plastic recycling with their program;
2. Council contact Hornsby and Albury councils to discuss how they have organised soft plastic recycling options for their community;
3. Council review our soft plastic recycling options as researched in items 1 and 2 above and our single use plastic illumination strategy and place as an item agenda for discussion when updating the 2023/24 Delivery and Operation plan in February next year; and
4. Council report back to the February 2023 Council Meeting in regard to the findings from items 1 and 2 above.
In other environmental news, Lane Cove Council also discussed the following at their December 2022 meeting.
Car Free Sunday
Councillors Kathy Bryla, David Roenfeldt and Andrew Zbik moved a notice of Motion recommending Lane Cove Council research the approach of instigating a car-free day in Lane Cove in September 2023.
Lane Cove Council resolved to do the following:
1. Lane Cove Council research the approach of instigating car free day in September 2023; and
2. Council to include in the agenda at the Council Operational and Planning workshop in February 2023.
ITC published an article about Car Free Sundays in 2019 and noted:
“The Lane Cove Sustainably Action Group has mooted a car free Sunday for many years. Car Free Sundays are popular in Europe (particularly in the Netherlands where cycling is a real alternative).
Car Free Sundays have been popular in Europe. While no authority has the power to stop people from using their car, most councils that are involved in car free Sunday actively promote and encourage people to not use their car.”
Like the Lane Cove Rotary Fair (always the second Sunday in October), the areas that would be targeted as Car Free would be Longueville Road and Burns Bay Road. Local Business would be encouraged to take over the roads. Hunters Hill has a sort of car free day when they use to stage their very popular Hunters Hill Street Feast.”
Read our article here.
Community Car Boot Sale
Councillor Kathy Bryla proposed a Notice of Motion which asked Lane Cove Council to investigate the viability and logistics of holding a quarterly “car boot market” in a Council space.
The aim is for communities to work towards a circular economy, where recycling and waste reduction becomes our normal. These markets encourage communities to sell unwanted goods rather than sending them to landfill or placing the strain on charity organisations who end up sending oversupply to landfill offshore. It is becoming a popular marketplace with communities in Avalon, Narrabeen, Riverwood and Lismore.
The Lane Cove Council resolved to:
- Lane Cove Council investigate the viability and logistics of holding a quarterly “car boot market” in a Council space;
- Council to add to the agenda to the Council Operational and Planning workshop in February 2023 budget; and
- Council to present final report and results to a Council Ordinary Meeting in the first quarter 2023 or as otherwise agreed at the Operational and Planning workshop.
- Investigate how community groups could use the car boot sale as a fundraising activity.
Years ago, there was a car boot sale held in the Lane Cove West Public School Grounds (before the synthetic grass was installed). It was very popular and given that 56% of Lane Cove residents live in apartments where it is hard to hold garage sales, this is a great idea.
REDcycle was Australia’s biggest soft plastic recycling company, and collection bins are found in Coles and Woolworths.
Lane Cove residents have been very diligent in recycling their soft plastics. Originally Coles Lane Cove was the only supermarket you could drop off your soft plastics and REDCycle collected a few bags a week. When Woolworths opened they also provided a place for soft plastic recycling.
Over the years, ITC has collected Lane Cove soft plastic recycling stats from REDcycle, and the stats showed REDCycle were scheduling more pick-ups due to the recycling programme’s success in Lane Cove.
REDcycle published the following statement on its website:
“REDcycle program to temporarily pause
REDcycle regrets to announce that it will temporarily pause its soft plastics collection program from 9 November 2022. REDcycle and its partners are committed to having the program back up and running as soon as possible.
Why is the program pausing?
Consumer recycling of soft plastic has grown exponentially in recent years, with a 350% increase in plastic returned since 2019. However, due to several unforeseen challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, REDcycle’s recycling partners have temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics. This combination has put untenable pressure on the REDcycle business model.
What should I do with my soft plastic now?
For the short term, consumers are encouraged to put their soft plastics in their home rubbish bin Please do not put it in your home kerbside recycling bin (unless the Curby program is available in your area) as it is not recyclable in that system.
How long is the program paused for?
We can’t confirm at this stage the length of the pause, but we can assure you that all stakeholders are working on solutions for the short-term pipeline imbalance.
REDcycle and retail partners are committed to having the program back up and running as soon as possible.
Since REDcycle launched 10 years ago, Founder Liz Kasell wanted to do the right thing for the community and for the planet. She started this program, as a mum from her kitchen table as when looking at a bag of peas and she asked why on earth can’t this be recycled? Through this program her goal has been to enable and empower people in the community, just like her, to make a positive impact on the environment. Since we started, with your support we have diverted 5.4 billion pieces of soft plastic entering landfill and our natural environments.
Please see our FAQS page for more information about this announcement.
Thank you for your patience and commitment to REDcycle during this time.”
The REDcycle programme was needed because soft plastics (ie anything you can scrunch) could not be recycled in the same way other plastics like bottles are recycled. Soft plastics clog up sorting machines which is why you cannot put soft plastics in your yellow bin.
Will RecycleSmart Still Collect Soft Plastics in Lane Cove?
The short answer is no.
After picking up the soft plastics from your home, RecycleSmart would send them to REDcycle. This process was stipulated by Lane Cove Council, other councils have different ways of dealing with soft plastic.
Recycle Smart Statement
Some of you may have already read the news: the Australian soft plastics recycling industry is going through a very important challenge.
What has happened? Australia’s largest soft plastic recycling program, has announced that they are pausing their program effective immediately.
Can I still put soft plastics in the bags for my Power
Unfortunately, no. We have to temporarily stop collecting soft plastics because they were processed through this program, as per your council’s guidelines. This might change as we are currently exploring with your council the best option moving forward.
For how long? At this stage, we don’t know yet and we will keep you posted as the situation evolves.
What shall I do with my soft plastics in the meantime? Bear with us a little longer: we are working together with your council and will come back to you very soon with more precise guidelines.
Are you still collecting all the other tricky-to-recycle items? Yes absolutely, e-waste, clothes and our “misfits” such as batteries, light bulbs, etc. are still collected. You can find the complete list here.
I need to make changes to my bookings, what do I do? Simply visit your account and edit your next Power Pickup
As always, we’re here to help. You can visit our frequently asked questions here or reach out to our customer service team by simply replying to this email.
We are sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. “
Federal Government Response
In Question Time today (9 November 2022) Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink asked Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water, about the REDcycle programme being put on pause. Tanya Plibersek said the government is working with the industry to come up with a solution, but supermarkets also had to step up.
Thanks for the question @KyleaTink, I know families are very keen to do their bit for recycling. Today I have spoken to Coles, Woolworths, + the Australian Food and Grocery Council. Our Govt is committed to action, it’s important industry does its share too. #qt #auspol pic.twitter.com/zE6YYTdX6E
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) November 9, 2022
Food and Grocery Council of Australia Response
ITC spoke to the media and communications manager at The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) today (9 November 2022).
The AFGC is working on a kerbside plastic collection trial, which is starting soon in Victoria and will be rolled out in other states. You can read more about the trial here.
AFGC Media Statement
“The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) has recently been made aware of the challenges currently facing REDcycle.
We will continue engaging with the REDcycle team, retailers, APCO and the broader community.
The REDcycle program has been a significant contributor to the recycling ecosystem and consumers will undoubtedly be concerned about what this means for soft plastic collection. Since becoming aware of the challenges, interested parties have been working on potential options to address the collection of soft plastics.
For the longer term, there is a need for a larger scale program to recycle soft plastics. To this end, the AFGC and leading Australian food and grocery manufacturers have been developing a scheme for nationwide soft plastics recycling underpinned by kerbside collection of the material.
This week, the first in a series of kerbside soft plastic collection trials has started, with some residents in certain local government areas across the country already participating. These trials will enable the entire supply chain to invest with confidence in a soft plastics recycling scheme for the future. We see kerbside collection as vital and the only way Australia can be a leader in advanced recycling.
There is enormous demand for recycled food-grade soft plastics from manufacturers and Australia is well-placed to be a global leader off the back of nationwide kerbside collection of soft plastics.”
Boomerang Alliance is an alliance of organisations that promote environmental stewardship.
They released the following statement:
“The collapse of the REDcycle soft plastics recycling scheme and “secret stockpiling” has revealed deeper problems that must be fixed if the community is to have confidence in plastics recycling.
REDcycle has been the flagship of industry and government claims they are taking action on soft plastics recycling, but it has only ever been a small operation compared to the 336,000 tonnes of soft plastics used and dumped every year. The fundamental problem is the lack of a market and this can only be fixed by mandatory recycled content rules, which to date have been opposed by industry and government.
All producers need to be part of a mandatory product stewardship scheme that requires investment in comprehensive collection systems and use of the material in new products. This can be achieved under federal law; or a state like NSW which has some good legislation. Reliance on the voluntary approach was always going to fail. Producers also need to find alternatives to plastic, so the pollution problem is lessened.
REDcycle and buyers of the collected plastics have been a good proving ground, but much more needs to be done to make it mainstream. Use of reprocessed material should not be an option in roads or new packaging. This has been a fundamental flaw in the National Packaging Plan which won’t reach its 2025 targets. Environment ministers need to take forceful action. Putting a label on packaging that says “recyclable” does not mean it is recycled in practice or at scale.”
Background – How Did REDcycle use Recycled Soft Plastics?
REDcycle had three main partners that took their plastics and converted them into another product.
Since 2010, RED Group has collaborated with Victorian manufacturer, Replas – www.replas.com.au – who produce a range of over 200 recycled plastic products such as benches, decking, and signage using the recovered REDcycle plastic as a resource. As part of their partnership with REDcycle, both Coles and Woolworths have committed purchasing Replas recycled plastic customer benches for stores, resulting in the manufacture of over one thousand units since the REDcycle Program launched. Replas’ client base includes councils, parks and gardens, universities, sporting venues, and other municipal facilities. The Replas primary processing facility is located in Ballarat with a showroom and fabrication plant in Carrum Downs, Victoria.
Redplas issued the following statement:
“REPLAS CONTINUES TO PROCESS AND MANUFACTURE UTILISING SOFT PLASTICS FROM REDCYCLE Replas is currently processing and manufacturing with soft plastics collected through the REDcycle program. We will continue to accept and utilise as much soft plastic as possible, based on market demand and what is technically feasible. As always, Replas is committed to making a difference by turning problematic plastic into useful products. We will continue working with the community, industry and government to further drive the demand for recycled plastic products.
Close the Loop
In 2018, RED Group partnered with Close the Loop, enabling processed REDcycle plastic to be blended with waste printer toner to create a high-grade asphalt additive, TonerPlas – https://www.closetheloop.com.au/tonerplas/. Close the Loop is based in Somerton, Victoria with international facilities in both the US and Belgium. Downer Group, a major roads infrastructure provider, mixes the TonerPlas product with recycled glass to produce the final product, Reconophalt. The first road containing Reconophalt was laid in the Victorian suburb of Cragieburn in May 2018. Every 1 km of road paved with Reconophalt uses approximately: 530,000 plastic shopping bag equivalents; 168,000 glass bottle equivalents; Waste toner from 12,500 printer cartridges; 20% reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP).
The Close the Loop factory was destroyed by fire and they have not been able to take plastics from REDcycle – they hope to have the factory rebuilt next year.
In 2019, RED Group also partnered with Plastic Forests who use the REDcycle plastic as a component of their new Mini Wheel Stops (https://plasticforests.com.au/product/mini-wheel-stops/), I beams for transport, garden edging, and cable covers. Plastic Forests is the first REDcycle manufacturing partner to launch recycled products available to the consumer market, such as the Mini Wheel Stop and mounting blocks for home air conditioners. Plastics Forests processing facility is based in Albury, NSW. According to the SMH this contract was lost last year.
So, for the time being, put your soft plastics in the RED BIN, and we will let you know when an alternative system is worked out.
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