In celebration of World Environment Day on the 5th of June, Woolworths announced a number of measures to reduce plastic pollution – and have committed to make all their own-brand plastic packaging reusable and recyclable by 2022.

In line with the group’s vision to be one of the most responsible retailers in the world, Woolworths has become the first South African retailer to announce a vision of zero packaging to landfill. Meaning that the retailer aims to have 0% of its packaging end up in landfills, which requires 100% recyclable materials and the support of a recycling infrastructure.

One of the keys to realising this vision is the phasing out of unnecessary single-use plastics. Part of this aim is the commitment Woolworths has made to have all of the packaging used in-store to either be reusable or recyclable by 2022, this includes the phasing out of single-use plastic bags completely. The business is working towards removing all plastics that are currently not recyclable such as, plastic straws, earbuds and plastic shopping bags as well as educating their customers on the role of packaging in eliminating food waste.

Zyda Rylands, Woolworths South Africa CEO, 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. 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 with with us.”

Essential to the success of these progressive goals is the continued commitment to partner with government and industry, recyclers, packaging converters and producer responsibility organisations to develop technically and commercially viable solutions to recycling different plastics.

Many in-store trials are currently underway at selected Woolworths stores to engage with customers regarding the new plastic reduction efforts, including:

– Use of wooden cutlery and paper straws in NowNow and WCafes to initiate the process of phasing out plastic cutlery and straws completely

– Plastic straws 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 program currently underway in NowNow stores, with the aim of rolling out nationally.

– Trials of reverse recycling vending machines, offering customers the opportunity to bring in their recyclables and put them into the machines to be recycled.

– Trials of a new range of affordable reusable shopping bags.

John Duncan, Senior Manager: Marine Programme, WWF-SA, endorsed Woolworths’ ambitious goals, saying, “The immediate challenge is to limit the use of plastic to appropriate applications and improve its end-of-life management through reuse and recycling. In setting holistic and ambitious packaging commitments, Woolworths is clearly taking a leadership role on this issue and is significantly raising the bar for others to follow in rethinking how and when we use plastics.”

Pictures: Woolworths

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