Nestlé and iQ Renew partner on soft plastic recycling in resource recovery trial

Nestlé and Australian recycler iQ Renew have announced a trial which aims to see soft plastics collected from over 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and diverted from landfill.

With increasing consumer demand for improved recycling, the trial aims to find a way to collect, sort and process soft plastics that can be broadly adopted.

iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said there is an opportunity in turning soft plastic from a waste to a resource.  Soft plastics not only make up 20% of the volume of Australian household landfill bins, but are also frequently found incorrectly placed in recycling bins.

“Most Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) can’t separate soft plastic from other items in household recycling, so while soft plastic can be recycled, what we lack is a robust, scalable system to collect and process it using existing kerbside collection,” Gallagher said.

“We’ve designed the trial so that at the front end, it will support householders to pre-sort their soft plastic and get it into a recycling stream, while behind the scenes, we’ll test using the sorted soft plastic as a resource in a range of different manufacturing processes,” he said.

Nestlé Australia CEO, Sandra Martinez, said Nestlé wanted to find sustainable paths to recycle packaging.

“While we are working to make all our packaging recyclable, we know that soft plastics is an area that needs greater focus and collaboration. We need to find ways to drive more recycling here,” Martinez said.

“As Nestlé plans to reduce our virgin plastic use and increase the amount of food grade recycled plastic packaging we use, we need plastic to be collected. Given the low amount of soft plastic collected from consumers today, we hope this trial can unlock the significant potential for soft plastic packaging to become a resource.”

Martinez said Nestlé also wanted to help people to recycle effectively.

“Australians are enthusiastic recyclers and want better recycling systems that take plastic packaging out of landfill. This trial will uncover how households understand soft plastics collection and answer critical questions about how it affects their in-home recycling behaviour. We have a vision for Australia to have a waste free future.”

The project will commence with a pilot of 2000 households, then plans to expand to over 100,000 households later in the year, processing around 750 tonnes of soft plastic that would otherwise be sent to landfill. Locations for the trial are currently under consideration.

Coles increases recycling of soft plastics by 32 per cent

Shoppers recycled enough pieces of plastic to go around the world one and half times at Coles last year, representing a  32 per cent increase on the previous year.

Revealed in Coles’ Sustainability Report, Coles customers recycled 905 tonnes or 226 million pieces of soft plastics – including 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.

Coles became the first major Australian supermarket to roll out REDcycle bins in all supermarkets last year.

Customers can place plastic bags and soft plastic packaging in REDcycle bins at the front of Coles stores so they can then be recycled for a range of uses such as furniture, playground equipment and materials for walkways in parks, roads and bollards.

Locals in Hornsby in New South Wales, Yarraville in Victoria, Kenmore in Queensland, St Agnes in South Australia, Kingston in Tasmania, Jamison in ACT and Inglewood in Western Australia are among the most dedicated soft plastic recyclers in the country, with these stores diverting the most plastic from landfill.

READ MORE: The future of soft plastics to be discussed

Coles chief property and export officer Thinus Keeve said customers should be commended for remembering to bring their soft-plastics back to store.

“The increase in use of REDcycle bins shows just how significant the issue of reducing waste has become for customers,” he said. “We know that recycling is important to our customers, and we are seeing many people changing their habits to reduce waste that ends up in landfill.”

“Since we partnered with REDcycle in 2011, our customers have recycled enough pieces of plastic to go around the world five times which is just fantastic. We want to become Australia’s most sustainable retailer, so we are looking at ways to divert even more waste from landfill and reduce packaging.”

The soft plastic collected in REDcycle bins at Coles supermarkets is used as a raw material by Australian manufacturers, Replas and Plastic Forests. It is converted into a range of uses, including playground benches, garden edging, wheel stops, walkways in parks, bollards and the customer seats used in Coles supermarkets. REDcycle has also partnered with Close the Loop and Downer EDI to provide soft plastic for road base.

RED Group director of development Elizabeth Kasell is proud that consumers have jumped on board to support soft-plastic recycling. This is helping retailers, distributors and manufacturers work together for a better outcome for materials that were previously going to landfill.

“The beauty of this program is its simplicity. We’re not asking people to change their routines – it’s just a matter of remembering to take their plastic packaging with them next time they visit their local Coles supermarket. And we were delighted to roll out our bins to Coles supermarkets across the country, it’s made a huge difference,” Kasell said.

Future of Soft Plastics Technical event Part II

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) is pleased to advise that due to popular demand and the recent success of the Future of Soft Plastics Technical event that was held in Victoria, a lunch time version will be held on the 17 of July in New South Wales and all of industry is invited to attend.

The AIP, along with their many industry members, are concerned about current discussions and challenges directed at ‘single use plastic’ packaging and this technical seminar will help to guide you and your teams to better understand the current and true state-of-play with Soft Plastics in Australia.

Discussions will include understanding the issues surrounding Soft Plastics and the important benefits this packaging format brings (food safety, convenience and reducing food waste). Speakers will provide insights into some of the excellent initiatives that are already underway in the country to effectively recycle this packaging format.

This technical seminar will focus on soft plastics and the current recycling programs being undertaken and the evening is aimed at challenging the industry to be more involved in promoting a better understanding of the benefits and opportunities for soft plastics.

Speakers will include: Caitlyn Richards, Responsible Sourcing Manager, Sustainable Products and Packaging, Coles Group, Peter Tamblyn, Sales & Marketing Manager Asia Pacific, Close the Loop, Mark Jacobson, Marketing Director, Replas, Anthony Peyton MAIP, Director, PREP Design and Keith Chessell, AIP Board Member, APCO

Federal Government commits $3 million to support APCO recycling projects

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and Planet Ark Environmental Foundation (PAEF) are pleased to confirm the Federal Government has today committed $3m to support four new recycling education and resource recovery projects in Australia. The funding is part of the Federal Government’s $203m package announced today in Melbourne to increase recycling and reduce waste, protect Australia’s unique threatened species and restore our waterways and coasts, and will provide essential resources and support to drive the delivery of the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

The National Consumer Education Program will receive $1.1m to create a consistent national approach to consumer education on reducing, reusing and recycling packaging over the next four years. This program will extend the reach of the Australasian Recycling Label Program, an evidence-based labelling scheme that was launched by the Hon Melissa Price in September 2018 and has since been adopted by more than 200 Australian organisations. This new funding will allow the program to expand and include away from home recycling, the use of recycled content, compostable packaging and encouraging reduction and reuse behaviours.

A further $1.6m in funding will support the development of a Circular Economy Hub, a new online platform and marketplace that will help drive innovation in the transition to a circular economy in Australia. In addition to highlighting the latest sustainability education and resources, the site will match buyers and sellers in waste resources to help them identify products with sustainable materials, including recycled content. This online marketplace functionality will help to build the critical end markets for recycled products in Australia and provide essential education to the supply chain about the availability of sustainable options.

The Regional Model for Soft Plastics Recycling project is a partnership between APCO and the Plastic Police, a program developed by Cross Connections to promote regional collection and recycling of soft plastics. The Plastic Police program is currently operating in the NSW’s Hunter Region and will receive $150k to explore opportunities for expansion, including deployment in other regions.

Finally, a further $150k will be provided to the Remote and Regional Waste Collection Partnership, a project aiming to support governments and communities to address the challenges of waste and resource recovery in remote and regional areas.

Brooke Donnelly, CEO of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation commented: “We are delighted the government has recognised the value of the ARL and the other connected projects that APCO and our partner network is committed to delivering. This funding will enable us to continue our collaborative work with industry and our partners to ensure that we meet the 2025 targets and continue to work toward achieving a circular economy in Australia.”

“The Circular Economy Hub will provide businesses with the knowledge and tools needed for their transition to a circular economy,” said Paul Klymenko, CEO of Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. “An important element will be the Circular Economy Marketplace, which will act as the B2B ‘eBay’ for the circular economy. Planet Ark is thrilled to have been entrusted with the development of these vital tools.”

The future of soft plastics to be discussed

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), in conjunction with SPE, will be running a technical dinner to discuss the Future of Soft Plastics on the 8 May in Melbourne and all of industry is invited to attend.

Both the AIP and the SPE, along with their many industry members, are concerned about current discussions and challenges directed at ‘single use plastic’ packaging and this dinner will help to guide you and your teams to better understand the current and true state-of-play with Soft Plastics in Australia.

Discussions will include understanding the issues surrounding Soft Plastics and the important benefits this packaging format brings (food safety, convenience and reducing food waste).  Speakers will provide insights into some of the excellent initiatives that are already underway in the country to effectively recycle this packaging format.

This technical dinner will focus on soft plastics and the current recycling programs being undertaken and the evening is aimed at challenging the industry to be more involved in promoting a better understanding of the benefits and opportunities for soft plastics.

Speakers will include: Fiona Baxter, group manager responsible sourcing, Coles; Peter Tamblyn, sales and marketing manager Asia Pacific, Close the Loop; Mark Jacobson, marketing director, Replas; Elizabeth Kasell, director of development, REDCycle; and Anthony Peyton MAIP, Director, PREP Design.

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