Coles recently launched its new Sustainability Strategy under the focus areas of Together to Zero and Better Together.
Together to Zero includes its ambitions for Together to zero waste and references the importance of Coles’ relationship with REDcycle: “Supporting and creating end-markets to use recovered materials including those collected through initiatives such as the REDcycle soft plastic collection program available in all Coles supermarkets.”
Coles and RED Group have been working together since 2011 on the REDcycle collection program. Coles was the first REDcycle retail partner. The company has been a great supporter of the circular economy for soft plastics. For years Coles has been buying benches containing REDcycle plastics for use outside its stores, and donating them to schools and community groups across Australia. In 2021, Coles ran a competition called Sustainability4Schools and recognised the sustainability efforts of more than 80 primary schools across Australia by awarding each an outdoor bench – a ’Buddy Bench’ – made from 98% recycled plastic, including soft plastic collected through REDcycle.
A number of supermarkets in Victoria and NSW are now also using trolley baskets made from 90% recycled milk bottles and 10% rFlex, a product made from recycled REDcycle plastics.
In addition, Coles is using box storage units made from recycled plastics in some of its supermarkets. The boxes are made with 30% soft plastic collected through the REDcycle scheme and 70% from recycled hard plastics.
In November 2020, the Coles carpark at Horsham in Victoria was the first commercial construction project to use Polyrok, a sustainable alternative to aggregate minerals used in concrete, such as stone. Polyrok is made from soft plastic packaging recovered through the REDcycle program.
According to Coles Victoria State Construction Manager Fiona Lloyd, the Horsham project has helped repurpose approximately 900,000 pieces of soft plastic.
“As one of Australia’s largest food retailers, we know how important it is to support initiatives that help to close the loop with soft plastics,” she said.
In February 2021, more than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic were recycled as Polyrok as part of a Coles supermarket development at Cobblebank in Melbourne’s west.
Coles has also introduced recycled plastic wheel stops to the blueprint for new store car parks. These are made from 98% post-consumer plastics, including soft plastics recovered by REDcycle.
Whiteman Edge Village, home of a WA first-of-its-kind Coles Click and Collect Drive-Thru, has used Reconophalt in its car park. Reconophalt is a type of asphalt that contains TonerPlas, an additive made from recycled REDcycle plastics. This project for the Coles owned shopping centre used three tonnes of recycled soft plastic, which is equivalent to 750,000 plastic bags.
In August 2020, NSW regional manufacturer Plastic Forests received a $300,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant to manufacture fence posts from recycled plastic, providing an end-to-end solution for agricultural plastic such as sileage wrap and another recycling option for soft plastics collected at Coles.
The grant allowed the Albury business to purchase equipment to upscale and accelerate the manufacturing of an innovative steel-reinforced plastic post to provide a sustainable fencing solution for farmers, including those affected by the bushfires.
“The support from the Coles Nurture Fund allowed us to assist farmers to re-build following the devastating bushfires and to incorporate difficult to recycle post-consumer soft plastics collected from Coles’ supermarkets by REDcycle,” said David Hodge, Managing Director of Plastic Forests.
Coles has been driving innovation in manufacturing. In addition to the support for the fence posts, Coles also partnered in the development of both Polyrok and the shopping trolleys containing post-consumer recycled soft plastics.