The nation’s leading supermarket retailers, led by Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, will form part of a Soft Plastics Taskforce to explore solutions to address the immediate effects of the recent collapse of the REDcycle scheme for soft plastics.
They received conditional interim authorisation from the competition regulator on Friday.
Coles, Woolworths and ALDI lodged an urgent application for interim authorisation last week after the suspension of the REDcycle scheme led to the discovery that hundreds of millions of soft plastic bags and wrappings were not being recycled at facilities, but were being stockpiled in warehouses.
At its annual general meeting earlier this month, Coles boss Steven Cain said the supermarkets would approach the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to see if the supermarket industry could work collaboratively to create a new scheme to handle the soft plastic waste.
The ACCC has now given conditional approval for that collaboration with the creation of the Soft Plastics Taskforce.
“We have moved quickly to approve the interim application as the suspension of the REDcycle program stopped in-store collections of soft plastic, raising community concerns and an urgent need to address the environmental risk of the existing stockpile and future waste,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said on Friday.
Under the ACCC’s conditional interim authorisation, the authorised supermarkets can engage in meetings of the Soft Plastics Taskforce, which will consider, and seek to develop and implement, a short-term solution for the storage, transportation, processing, recycling and/or management of soft plastics.
“The application envisages that a longer-term solution to the issue of recycling soft plastics is needed and that the proposed conduct will not detract from or adversely affect the development of longer-term solutions,“ Mr Keogh said.
The ACCC may grant an authorisation for any conduct that could otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely detriment.
“This interim authorisation allows co-operation between the major supermarket retailers for a limited period and for the particular purpose of exploring options for the storage, transport, processing, recycling and management of soft plastics to minimise the volume that may end up in landfill, which is of great benefit to us all,” Mr Keogh said.
“The ACCC expects the applicants to resolve this situation urgently and has placed a number of reporting conditions on them to ensure we are informed of their progress. This will aid us in determining our final decision on the application, as well as whether the interim authorisation should be revoked.”
The ACCC said separate to the application for authorisation, it is engaging with various industry stakeholders and representative bodies to ensure clarity and transparency in communications so as to minimise the risk of consumers being misled by representations about the recycling of soft plastics.
The interim authorisation will continue until it is revoked, the application for authorisation is withdrawn, or the date the ACCC’s final determination comes into effect. A public consultation process will begin shortly.
REDcycle has been the only return-to-store, soft plastics recovery program in Australia since 2011, facilitating the collection and processing of soft plastics into a variety of durable recycled plastic products.
Extracted from The Australian