The popular South African supermarket chain, Woolworths, has announced its commitment to opening three new plastic bag-free stores after trialling its first concept in the Western Cape. The Steenberg branch in Cape Town has not provided shoppers with plastic grocery bags or fresh produce packets for several months.
The three new plastic bag-free stores have been earmarked for Maroun Square in Johannesburg, Moreleta Village in Pretoria and Delcairn Centre in Durban. Woolworths has also developed a low-cost reusable grocery bag that will be rolled out in 15 additional stores across the country. This reusable bag has been on trial in the Western Cape for the past six months.
Plastic bag-free stores help consumers make the right choice
Over 100 000 single-use plastic grocery bags have been saved since Woolworths launched its new reusable version at the end of 2018. The main goal for the launch of the new bag was to shift consumer behaviour and help shoppers opt for a more environmentally-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bags.
“This journey to phase out single-use plastics is one that we have to take together, and it has been fantastic to see Woolies customers coming on board to help reduce plastic waste in the environment,” says Woolworths Holdings Group head of sustainability Feroz Koor.
“At the stores where customers had the option to keep buying single-use plastic bags, we saw promising reductions in plastic bag sales, particularly at Woolies Pinelands where there was a 23% drop in the sales of single-use plastic bags. We look forward, now, to expanding the project for greater impact,” Koor explains.
Reusable bags made from recycled bottles
Woolworths’ new reusable shopping bags are made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. Over 129 000 PET bottles have been removed from the waste stream and recycled for this project. Once the bags are introduced to the 15 Woolworths stores, this volume of recycled bottles will increase exponentially.
The reusable bag project also supports local initiatives and creates jobs for black-owned suppliers such as Isikhwama, which employs around 130 people. The project will lead to further job creation as the demand for the bags increases. The plastic bag-free stores will be the major market for recycled shopping bags.
Woolworths signs international plastic commitment
Woolworths Holdings Group is the first African retailer to sign the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Global Commitment. This document intends to set a new precedent for plastic and packaging waste by reducing pollution at the source. Around 250 businesses, organisations, schools and public enterprises from around the world have signed the agreement already. The New Plastic Economy Global Commitment was launched in October 2018 in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The launch of the new plastic bag-free stores and the expansion of the reusable bag project are signs that Woolworths is committed to reducing plastic waste in the environment and tackling pollution from the point of sale. The new stores will help South African shoppers to reduce their own plastic waste output and minimise Woolworths’ packaging pollution.
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