Woolworths is ditching its wasteful plastic packaging – here’s what is changing

Woolworth has announced that it plans to be the first retailer in South Africa to contribute zero packaging waste.

In a statement released on Tuesday (05 June), the retailer said it aims to have none of its packaging end up in landfills, which will require the introduction of 100% recyclable materials and a supportive recycling infrastructure.

This will include the phasing out of unnecessary single-use plastics, and the commitment for all its packaging to be either reusable or recyclable by 2022.

Woolworths is committed to phasing out single-use plastic shopping bags completely by 2020, it said.

“Today’s announcement follows extensive customer research and engagement, both formally and through social media channels that shed light on both customer recycling habits and entrenched customer perceptions,” said Zyda Rylands, Woolworths South Africa CEO.

“We know that many of our customers fully support our zero packaging waste to landfill journey and they want to see it happen as fast as possible. But this is not a path that we can walk alone. To succeed, we need our customers, our suppliers and the South African recycling industry to work with us.”

“Critical to the success of these ambitious goals is the continued commitment to partner with government and industry (recyclers, packaging convertors, producer responsibility organisations) to develop technically and commercially viable solutions to recycling different plastics.”

Rylands said that several in-store trials are currently underway at selected Woolworths stores in order to engage customers on the new plastic reduction efforts, including:

  • Wooden cutlery and paper straws are being rolled out in NowNow and WCafes with a view to phase out plastic cutlery and straws completely;
  • Plastic straws are no longer available for purchase in store;
  • Paper-stemmed earbuds will be on the shelves by the end of October and plastic ear buds will no longer be sold in store;
  • A pilot coffee cup recycling programme is currently underway in NowNow stores, with a view to rolling out nationally;
  • The retailer is trialling reverse recycling vending machines, where customers can bring in their recyclables and put them into the vending machine so that they can be recycled;
  • Woolworths is also trialling a new range of affordable reusable shopping bags.

Read: Government looking at new laws banning straws, bags and other plastics

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