EPA serves supermarkets draft clean-up notice 

Australia’s two biggest supermarkets are on notice to remove 5,200 tonnes of soft plastic waste across 15 sites in New South Wales. 

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has served Coles and Woolworths with a draft clean-up notice to dispose of the stockpile after the REDcycle soft plastics collection service was suspended last year. 

Tony Chappel, CEO of the NSW EPA, said the buildup is the result of both retailers promoting the REDcycle collection program to their customers, and it’s now their responsibility to dispose of the build-up safely. 

“Thousands of customers diligently collected soft plastics and dropped them into their local supermarket’s collection bin because they trusted their waste would be diverted from landfill and recycled. 

“The extent of soft plastic waste sitting in warehouses across NSW is very concerning and I know customers will be disappointed.

“As we transition to a circular and net zero economy, supermarkets have a responsibility to customers and the environment to address plastic packaging and take positive actions that contribute to solutions rather than the problem,” said Chappel.

Having notified Fire and Rescue NSW of the high-risk storage facilities, Chappel said removing the plastic is a matter of protecting the community and environment and has requested the operators take immediate action to mitigate the potential risks. 

“These stockpiles are stored from the floor to the ceiling, blocking entry ways and preventing adequate ventilation with the soft plastic estimated to fill about three and a half Olympic sized swimming pools. 

“To protect our communities and environment, these materials need to be removed to reduce the risk of a fire,” said Chappel. 

The recycling crisis ensuing after REDcycle’s collapse in November 2022 continues to be a challenge for supermarkets the manage. 

“Despite this setback, which is a major blow to consumer confidence, we want to reaffirm our commitment to triple the recycling rate of plastics by 2030. 

“We are also working closely with our counterparts in other jurisdictions to ensure we take a co-ordinated approach and understand the issues that impacted REDcycle’s collapse,” said Chappel. 

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