The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) yesterday issued Australia’s largest supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, with a revised draft Clean-up Notice to manage the recovery, recycling and lawful removal of more than 5200 tonnes of soft plastic stockpiled across the state.
Both retailers have until Monday 27 February 2023 to respond to the notices which have been refined following feedback after they were first issued with draft Clean-up Notices on 3 February 2023.
NSW EPA Chief Executive Officer Tony Chappel said both Coles and Woolworths had indicated a willingness to work with the EPA to address immediate safety concerns.
“We welcome the decision by both retailers to prioritise the safety of NSW communities and take responsibility for the REDcycle stockpiles in NSW,” Mr Chappel said.
“Our revised notice requires the removal of soft plastics from their current location to an appropriate site within seven weeks to ensure we reduce the risk of fire.
“One of the interim options in the notice is to temporarily store the materials inside sealed shipping containers at a lawful facility.
“Our first priority is the safety of our communities and we have a regulatory responsibility to ensure appropriate action is taken as soon as possible.”
Beyond the interim storage measures, the revised notice gives the retailers 12 months to develop a lawful solution that determines the future of the materials, whether that be reprocessing at a recycling facility, exporting it overseas, or, as a last resort, sending it to landfill.
Mr Chappel said the EPA and supermarkets are committed to ensuring the material is recycled with landfilling the waste as a last resort.
“All manufacturers and retailers have a responsibility to deliver sustainable solutions for plastic packaging.
"While this has been a challenging situation for all parties, enormous opportunities lie ahead for industry and government to improve governance and collaboration around new solutions to address problematic waste streams.
“We all need to work together to invest in infrastructure and develop markets that support a step change in recycling initiatives.
“We are pleased to see industry engaging productively on both immediate and long-term solutions to these shared sustainability challenges, and we are now working more constructively towards a common goal.”
The NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy and NSW Plastics Action Plan demonstrate this commitment, with $356 million being invested to support innovative projects that help drive our transition towards a circular economy.