Australians are fuming after a recycling program has been exposed for stockpiling hundreds of millions of bags of plastic waste in warehouses.
REDcycle reported it had collected 5.4 billion pieces of plastic since it began in 2011, with customers regularly dropping off bags filled with soft plastic in bins housed in Coles and Woolies supermarkets.
The company has now been forced to suspend its service after an investigation by The Age revealed it had stopped recycling the plastic waste.
Environmentally conscious Australians who have been diligently collecting their soft plastic for years have taken to social media to share their outrage over the perceived deception.
“I‘m furious. You bloody liars,” one Twitter user wrote.
“This is really going to p*ss people off,” another said.
“There need to be consequences for this,” a third demanded.
“The REDcycle program showed that people WERE willing to put in the effort if it meant their soft plastics were being properly recycled.”
Many said they had been warned by friends that the service was not fulfilling its promises but had continued to use it in the hope they were making a difference.
“I’ve been using recycle for years and now feel like a massive chump,” one user said.
“I had heard rumours the REDcycle thing was a sham but still dutifully brought my soft plastics to the supermarket like a good little innocent environmentalist. This sucks,” another admitted.
“Same at our place,” a third said.
“The scrunchable plastics at our place are carefully washed, dried, folded and packaged for the weekly drop-off at the supermarket.
“This is hugely annoying.”
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek weighed in on the news, saying it was “really concerning” and put the pressure on major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths to come up with a solution.
“Big companies like Coles and Woolies generate a lot of this material, it shouldn’t be beyond them to come up with a viable solution,” she said.
“We’re happy to work with them to do this.”
Both Coles and Woolworths said they only became aware of the challenges “very recently”.
A Woolworths spokesman apologised and said they were “disappointed by the situation”.
REDcycle has now suspended its soft plastic collection program.
“Due to several unforeseen challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, REDcycle’s recycling partners have temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics,” a statement from the company read.
“This combination has put untenable pressure on the REDcycle business model.”
REDcycle said the company was “committed” to getting the program “back up and running as soon as possible”.
Consumers are advised to put their soft plastics in their home rubbish bin and not their recycling bin, as soft plastics are not able to be recycled in the kerbside collection system.