Pick n Pay is trialling compostable bags and cardboard boxes as an environmentally friendly alternative to its current plastic offering.
The one-day trial – on 3 July at its V&A Waterfront store – will gauge customer reaction, which will inform further industry discussions on alternatives to plastic bags, the retailer said.
The customer trial will replace all plastic carrier bags, barrier bags and fruit and vegetable bags with compostable bags made from starches, cellulose, vegetable oils and combinations.
The ‘not made from plastic’ carrier bags were given free to customers on the day. Cardboard boxes were also piloted with customers – at R5 per box – as another alternative to plastic carrier bags, it said.
Pick n Pay’s director for transformation, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, said that the piloted bags are strong and can be reused – similar to normal plastic bags.
“The important difference is that these trial bags are also home compostable,” she said.
“They are designed to collect organic waste, such as your kitchen scraps, and will compost with the organic waste in a home compost environment.
“The bag will break down after three to six months – depending on the composting system – as opposed to the reported 500 to 1,000 years for plastic bags. Customers can also bring the bags back to our stores and we will take them to a Pick n Pay composting facility”.
While the home compostable bags have been rolled out across Europe, North America and Australia, and exclusively with retailers in Italy, this is the first time South African consumers can try out the option.
Given the option is still in its infancy in South Africa, there are several considerations to look at before they could be introduced at scale, said Ackerman-Berman.
“Currently, for example, there are no integrated large-scale composting facilities available.”
During National Recycling Month in September, we will initiate the conversation with retailers, recyclers, manufacturers and the plastics industry on this issue,” she said.