Expect less plastic from Takealot

 ·5 Apr 2023

Takealot and other Naspers subsidiaries have joined the South African Plastics Pact, which will see the group reduce its reliance on various plastics in its business operations.

The SA Plastics Pact was launched in 2020 and currently has 44 members representing key organisations across the plastics value chain, including Unilever, Woolworths, Clicks, Food Lovers Market, Spar and Pick n Pay, among others.

Naspers and its subsidiary businesses have now joined the pact and will collaborate with packaging producers, brand owners, retailers, recyclers, governments and NGOs to reduce plastic packaging waste and create a circular economy for plastics.

The pact aims to transform the country’s plastic packaging use by meeting four targets:

  • Taking action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models
  • Ensuring 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Establishing a 70% of effective recycling rate for plastic packaging
  • Inclusion of an average of 30% recycled content across all plastic packaging

Naspers said that Takealot is already taking some proactive steps to tackle the plastic problem.

For example, the online retailer has installed recycling stations at its two flagship pickup points and plans to roll these out to 90 new pickup points.

The group also recycles 98% of its onsite waste,and  ensures that all of its paper packaging suppliers are FSC certified and promotes recycling instructions on all of its packaging.

“Among several other ways to reduce packaging, the company also ships certain categories of products, such as air fryers and microwaves, in their original packaging, avoiding the use of transportation boxes, thereby eliminating the need for double packaging,” it said.

Prajna Khanna, Global Head of Sustainability at Naspers said: “We recognise the opportunities for our platform businesses, like Takealot, to help improve the entire packaging ecosystem.

“These companies are developing innovative solutions and becoming a source of inspiration for market peers and business partners alike. While there is still much work to be done, the progress made so far is a positive sign that South Africa is moving towards a more environmentally responsible future.”

In 2021, 34.7 million problematic or unnecessary plastic items were removed, eliminated or replaced with more suitable alternatives by members of the SA Plastics Pact, with 81.2% of plastic packaging placed on the market currently being recycled.

Naspers said it has done its own research into the plastics landscape in South Africa, particularly around plastic packaging and delivery platforms, which impacts its businesses like Takealot.

It found that a rise in South Africa’s population and urbanisation has resulted in a surge in per capita waste generation, with consequent stress on current landfills and significant waste leakage into the environment.

An informal sector has emerged in the recycling economy, which has become a critical part of the process, with 60,000 to 90,000 people earning their livelihoods from informal waste picking.

However, although very critical to the value chain, only 3.6% of plastics recyclables are obtained directly from waste pickers, the group found.

“The South African market is still highly dominated by virgin plastics – in 2020, South Africa consumed approximately 1.74 million tonnes of plastic polymers, showing an opportunity to increase recycling,” it said.

The group said that it has developed “10 golden rules” for delivery platforms like Takealot to become develop sustainable packaging systems. This includes:

  1. Reducing packaging through design and logistics
  2. Remove problematic and unnecessary elements
  3. Reduce virgin material and increase recycled content
  4. Replace petrochemical-based plastics with low-impact and regenerative materials
  5. Adopt and scale reuse models
  6. Promote sustainable options with partners and customers
  7. Calculate your packaging footprint
  8. Raise awareness to improve recycling and composting
  9. Invest in building infrastructure that captures materials and prevents waste
  10. Create scale through collaboration.

“The market role of delivery platforms gives them the unique opportunity to influence upstream (restaurants and vendors) and downstream (customers and users) to systemically tackle the growing packaging waste problem,” Naspers said.

“Building on the market transformational impact of their business model, they have all the levers to improve the entire packaging ecosystem.”

Read: Big changes coming for waste collection in South Africa – and you may have to pay more

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