Um, All The Soft Plastics You Hoard & Lug To The Supermarket Aren’t Actually Getting Recycled

Michael Scott and Pam Beesly in The Office. Michael is holding trash bags and saying: Then why have I been separating the trash into whites and colours?

You know those soft plastics you so lovingly wash, hoard and drop off at Coles and Woolworths, thinking they’re going to be recycled? Well, it turns out REDcycle, the company responsible for picking up the items and recycling them, has actually just been fanging ’em in a warehouse.

That’s right! A warehouse. I know it’s deeply cooked and not funny, however, the mental image of someone carefully opening a warehouse door and squeezing bags stuffed with soft plastics in there is sending me.

I’m also losing it at the thought of some poor, unassuming person throwing the door open to grab something out of storage and instead being met by an avalanche of plastics. In my head, it’s kinda like that stampede scene in Jumanji but instead of dinosaurs, it’s a fuckton of chip packets.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, REDcycle never announced it wasn’t recycling the plastics it was collecting. Instead, for months it just kept picking up mountains of shit like green bags, bubble wrap, food packaging and pet food bags from Coles and Woolworths stores across Australia. Months.

If I was going to stop recycling the soft plastics I was collecting from the two biggest supermarkets in Australia via a nationwide program, I would simply let people know. I’m just built different like that.

The entire situation is even more absurd considering REDcycle collects and recycles more than 3 million pieces of soft plastics a week, per its website. That’s simply an absurd quantity of ice cream wrappers sitting in a warehouse and waiting for a mate.

What’s meant to happen is that REDcycle takes the plastics to its recycling and manufacturing partners, which include Replas and Close the Loop. These companies turn the plastics into recycled products, such as furniture, asphalt, bollards and signage.

REDcycle announced on Tuesday it would be “temporarily” pausing its collection program ‘cos the companies it partners with have stopped accepting and processing soft plastics for the time being.

“Consumer recycling of soft plastic has grown exponentially in recent years, with a 350 per cent increase in plastic returned since 2019,” REDcycle said on its website.

“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.”

REDcycle didn’t confirm when its collection program would be up and running again, but said its “stakeholders are working on solutions for the short-term pipeline imbalance”.

The Melbourne-based company refused to reveal to SMH how much plastic it has sitting in warehouses. However, the publication said more than one billion items could currently be collecting dust ‘cos it looks like manufacturing issues will be hanging around until mid-2023.

The idea of a billion bits of plastic sitting in storage has broken my brain. It’s giving Hoarders. Someone get Marie Kondo in there ASAP to start decluttering.

“REDcycle has had to take the unwanted but necessary step of holding stock in warehouse storage facilities temporarily, as this material will not be able to be processed for at least six months,” a REDcycle spokeswoman told SMH. 

She said the plastics will be processed at some point in the future, once REDcycle’s recycling and manufacturing partners are cooking with gas again. She also confirmed the ‘yuge amount of plastics won’t be going to landfill, which is kind of the bare minimum for a company dedicated to keeping shit out of there.

Obviously, the question on everybody’s lips is: Did Coles and Woolies know that REDcycle wasn’t recycling the soft plastics it was picking up from ’em?

According to SMH, Coles declined to comment and a Woolies spokesperson said the company was “only recently informed” by REDcycle about the sitch.

The entire thing is bloody depressing. To think so many folks go to the effort of recycling soft plastics ‘cos they want to do the right thing, only to find out it’s not actually getting recycled? It’s fkn outrageous.

As I’ve already said, it’s obviously not funny. But you also kind of have to laugh at how ridiculous it is. Like, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that comedians across the country are throwing in the towel because they know they’ll never think of something as ludicrous as this.

PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to REDcycle, Woolworths and Coles for comment.