More than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic will be recycled into the concrete used to build Coles’ newest supermarket in Melbourne’s west starting this week.

On Monday the supermarket giant announced it will use a new recycling technology developed in partnership with RMIT University and recycling organisations RED Group and Replas to build its new supermarket in Cobblebank.

The technology, known as Polyrock, is a form of concrete where soft plastics acts as an alternative to aggregate minerals used in concrete. 

Coles says more than 6.5 million pieces of plastic will be recycled in the largest-ever commercial application of Polyrok during its development of the Cobblebank supermarket in Melbourne’s West.

Coles has partnered with recycling companies REDcycle and Replas for the last decade and now has soft plastic collection bins in every Coles supermarket. The program collects 30 million pieces of plastic every month, with more than 1.3 billion pieces of soft plastic diverted from landfall since 2011, according to Coles.

But Australia wide only 10 per cent of the 3.5 million tonnes of soft plastic thrown out by Australians each year is recycled, according to Clean Up Australia.

Australia generates more waste on average compared to other developed economies and recycles less. China imported as much as a third of Australia’s rubbish in the past but announced a ban on rubbish and recycling imports in 2018.

The Australian government subsequently announced a plan to stop the export of waste and $132 million to modernise the country’s waste and recycling capacity. 

While COVID-19 has delayed the scheme, the exporting of plastics is expected to end completely by July 2024.

Coles says its reuse of plastics in concrete aggregate is one of the opportunities to use new recycling technologies as part of a more circular economy.

“We collect roughly 30 million pieces of plastic every month through our customer REDcycle program, so there’s a huge opportunity to use Polyrock in other Coles developments or other construction projects,” Coles State Construction Manager Victoria Fiona Lloyd.

“We’re really proud of the work we’ve put in with REDGroup, Replas and RMIT to invest and develop this important sustainable technology designed to reduce our environmental impact.

“This is just the beginning of what is possible – this project alone will help repurpose more than 6.5 million pieces of soft plastic from landfill.”

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