26 September 2023

EPA throws rubbish burden on supermarkets

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The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has served Australia’s largest supermarkets with draft Clean-up Notices to remove thousands of tonnes of soft plastic that’s stockpiled across the State.

Chief Executive of EPA, Tony Chappel said that after widely promoting the REDcycle soft plastics collection program to their customers, Coles and Woolworths had a responsibility to address the more than 5,200 tonnes of stockpiled waste.

“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,” Mr Chappel said.

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

“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.

“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.”

Mr Chappel said these materials needed to be removed to reduce the risk of a fire.

He said the EPA had notified Fire and Rescue NSW of the 15 high-risk storage facilities in 11 local government areas and requested the operators of these sites to take immediate action to mitigate risks.

“These materials, once bound for recycling may unfortunately end up in landfill but the regulatory action had to be taken to protect NSW communities,” the EPA Chief Executive said.

“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,” he said.

“Each year, NSW recycles around 66 per cent of all waste but we know there is more work to do when it comes to plastic waste.”

Mr Chappel said both supermarkets had six days to comment on the draft notices.

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