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Major retailers pledge sustainable initiatives at National Plastics Summit

Major retailers, recyclers, industry groups, researchers and students gathered in Canberra on Monday to attend the first National Plastics Summit. 

The summit aimed to reiterate Australia’s national packaging targets to those in the industry, and for businesses to be able to share what they are doing and learn from one another. 

Retailers involved included Coles, Australia Post, Qantas, McDonald’s, Kmart and Target, Woolworths, and Officeworks.

Assistant minister for waste reduction and environmental management Trevor Evans said the summit was an important step toward driving a long-term push toward a circular economy.

“We are looking towards fundamentally changing the way we think about and manage our waste, and creating new markets for recycled products,” Evans said. 

“This transformation towards a circular economy will both create jobs and help our environment.”

Coles chief executive Steven Cain said the need to support recycling solutions was more important than ever before. 

“We want to be the most sustainable supermarket in Australia. With the volume of soft plastics collected by Coles rising as much as 32 per cent last financial year, we want to help find more Australian solutions for recovered material,” Cain said. 

In order to facilitate this Coles will donate $430,000 to sustainability organisation Red Group to extend the recycling work they do in the supermarket chain’s stores. 

Additionally, Coles is allocating $20,000 to trial infrastructure products made from recycled plastics, replacing the use of conventional options such as timber. 

Red Group will use the grant to invest in new processing technologies and vehicles to increase the amount it can collect and recycle across Australia.

“This grant from Coles Nurture Fund now takes REDcycle to a whole new level at a time when investment in Australian recovery and recycling is desperately needed,” Red Group founder Liz Kasell said. 

Since the businesses began working together they have diverted more than 878 million pieces, or 3.5 million kilograms, of flexible plastics from landfill. 

By 2021, Australia Post is aiming to have its 100 per cent of its plastic satchel range manufactured from recycled materials in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, non-renewable resource use and water consumption.

“As online shopping grows, Australia Post is focused on reducing the quantity of non-recycled packaging that moves through our network,” said Australia Post executive general manager of community and consumer Nicole Sheffield. 

Australia Post pointed to a trial of the new satchels in collaboration with Country Road over the 2019 holiday period, and said it sent a clear message to the market that major Australian brands are committed to eliminating the use of virgin plastics across the supply chain. 

Woolworths pledged to remove or reduce plastic packaging across its own-brand product ranges, and to further help customers recycle and reuse in its stores. 

Kmart group said it would phase-out ten of its own-brand single-use plastic products by 2021, as well as all problematic plastics across Kmart and Target’s own-brand products by the end of 2025. 

Additionally, half of the polyester and nylon used in Kmart branded clothing and bedding will be recycled material by January 2025, while all of Kmart Group’s plastic products will be recyclable or compostable by December 2030.

McDonald’s Australia announced the chain will eliminate plastic cutlery and straws from its restaurants across Australia by the end of 2020, removing an estimated 585 tonnes of plastic annually.

“We’re committed to being an industry leader in sustainable practices, ultimately using our scale for good to positively impact challenges facing the communities we operate in,” McDonald’s Australia director of supply chain and sustainability Kylie Freeland said. 

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