Woolworths and Coles will be forced to send tonnes of stockpiled REDcycle plastic waste to landfill in NSW.
Last year diligent customers were left furious and the big supermarkets were blindsided by the fact REDcycle had been storing collections from supermarkets in warehouses, rather than recycling the waste.
The program was paused in November and millions of plastic bags were stored in warehouses instead of being recycled.
On Friday, NSW’s Environment Protection Authority ordered Coles and Woolworths to dump some 5200 tonnes of soft plastics that had been sitting in warehouses across the state, the Nine newspapers reported.
Reportedly, the EPA and Fire Rescue NSW were concerned about the potential fire risks posed by the stockpiles.
NSW EPA chief executive Tony Chappel told Nine papers the bales of soft plastic were stored from “floor to the ceiling” at the warehouses, blocking entries and preventing “adequate ventilation.
Mr Chappel also said he understood customers who took their soft plastics to Coles and Woolworths for REDcycle to recycle them would be disappointed.
“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,” he said.
“The extent of soft-plastic waste sitting in warehouses across NSW is very concerning, and I know customers will be disappointed.”
The EPA, Coles and Woolworths have been contacted for comment.
More REDCycle sites uncovered in Victoria
Soft plastics that should have been recycled have been found stored at four more warehouses in Melbourne’s western and northern suburbs.
Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority located the new sites as part of its investigation into the collapsed REDcycle program.
Thousands of tonnes of soft plastic have been discovered at 14 sites across the city, including the four new locations in Laverton, Truganina, Tullamarine and Craigieburn.
EPA officers have already issued an improvement notice on the Truganina site, demanding better emergency access and a reduction in the stockpile.
The Laverton site was inspected on Thursday, with officers considering it to be a high risk due to concerns about the mix of materials.
The Tullamarine and Craigieburn sites are considered low risk.
In December, Victoria’s EPA charged the REDcycle operators – RG Programs and Services – with offences under the Environment Protection Act.
The matter is due before the Sunshine Magistrates Court later in February.