• Team member from Collingwood Coles shows how REDcycling is done.
    Team member from Collingwood Coles shows how REDcycling is done.
  • Prospect Primary School in SA has a bench made from recycled plastic.
    Prospect Primary School in SA has a bench made from recycled plastic.

Coles and sustainability partner REDcycle have diverted more than one billion pieces of soft plastic from landfill, the supermarket group announced.

The companies have worked together since 2011 to recycle 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 now collects an average of 121 tonnes – roughly 30 million pieces of plastic every month – that customers return to REDcycle bins at Coles stores. The one billionth piece of plastic was deposited in June.

Founder of Red Group and the REDcycle program Liz Kasell congratulated Coles and its customers for reaching the milestone.

“For nearly ten years Coles has supported the REDcycle program, and thanks to the participation of their enthusiastic customers, they have now diverted more than a billion pieces of soft plastics from landfill,” Kasell said.

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.

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.

In previous funding rounds REDcycle received a $430,000 grant to increase the amount of soft plastic it collects for recycling. The funds 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.

Coles chief Property & Export officer Thinus Keeve said the one billion mark was a fantastic achievement. “It’s also an important step in helping to drive generational sustainability in Australia,” he said.  

Reducing food waste

Coles said its other sustainability initiatives are focused on waste reduction.

Partnerships with food rescue organisations SecondBite and Foodbank have seen the group donate the equivalent of 146 millino meals.

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 per cent have witnessed an increase in demand for food relief.

The company also 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, Coles supermarkets are now reaching out to local farmers and customers to expand this program.

Coles is also working with bakery supplier Goodman Fielder on an initiative to recycle surplus Coles Brand bread that cannot be used by our food charity partners by processing into breadcrumbs and bread meal, an ingredient in pet foods such as dog biscuits.

Following a successful pilot earlier this year, the program is now being rolled out to over 200 stores, to further support repurposing unsold Coles Brand bread away from waste.

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