Recycle the scrunchable: Nestle Australia developing system for soft plastics recovery

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

The outside packaging of these cookies is considered soft packaging, but not the inside holder. ©Getty Images
The outside packaging of these cookies is considered soft packaging, but not the inside holder. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Nestlé, Packaging, Plastic

Nestle Australia has announced plans to develop a sorting and recycling system focusing solely on soft plastics, which have hitherto received far less attention in recycling schemes than rigid plastics.

Soft plastics as defined by local recycling group REDcycle are plastics that can be scrunched into a ball, as opposed to rigid plastics such as bottles and containers.

These include packaging items such as bread bags, biscuit wrappers, pasta bags, rice bags, frozen food bags, confectionary bags, plastic bags and so on.

“[Rigid plastics] fall outside this trial, as there is already widespread kerbside collection of PET and HDPE bottles,”​ Nestle Oceania Head of Corporate and External Relations Margaret Stuart told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“At present, some post-consumer soft plastic is collected through the REDcycle program in supermarkets, but most goes to landfill.”

Nestle will be collaborating with Australian recycling company iQ Renew on a pilot project to collect soft plastics from homes via kerbside recycling, and find an accessible method to process these sustainably.

“[We] are hoping to test ways to collect soft plastics directly from consumers’ homes, then sort and process so that they can be a resource for other processes and be diverted from landfill,”​ Stuart added.

“We will be looking at all aspects of this system, with the view to developing a system that can be adopted more broadly.”

According to iQ Renew data, soft plastics make up 20% of Australian household landfill bin volumes, and are also very commonly sorted wrongly into recycling bins.

“While we are working to make all our packaging recyclable, we know that soft plastics is an area that needs greater focus and collaboration, [and] more recycling needs to be driven here,”​ Nestle Australia CEO Sandra Martinez added.

“Australians are enthusiastic recyclers and want better recycling systems that take plastic packaging out of landfill. This trial will uncover how households understand soft plastics collection and answer critical questions about how it affects their in-home recycling behaviour.”

The initial phase of the pilot will involve 2,000 households in Australia, which will be further extended to some 100,000 across 2020. An estimated 750 tonnes of soft plastic is expected to be saved from landfill that way.

“[We have discussed] the trial at the National Plastics Summit run by the Australian government, [and] will be able to [reveal more] as trial development continues,”​ added Stuart.

Other major recycling programmes by F&B firms

Most other major recycling projects by F&B firms in Australia have focused on rigid plastics, especially plastic beverage bottles.

One example here is Coca-Cola Amatil, which has run container deposit schemes in South Australia for over 40 years, and recently voiced its support for the Australian state of Victoria when it announced plans to develop its own local scheme.

 “[These] schemes are the best way to support the recycling industry. We would like to work with the Victorian Government to ensure the container deposit scheme maximises collection rates and recycling and minimises impact on consumers and the industry,”​ said Coca-Cola Amatil Managing Director for Australia Peter West.

“We welcome Victoria’s decision to use container deposit schemes to improve beverage container recycling rates.”

The firm has also stopped distributing plastic straws in its range and is working with waste management experts Veolia to explore a plastics recycling plant in the country.

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