Retailer Pick n Pay plans to contribute significantly to reducing the impact of single-use plastic and packaging by 2025.
Since 2018, it has successfully implemented a number of initiatives to reduce packaging and single-use plastic at its stores and throughout its supply chain.
The retailer has set further ambitious targets, including that 100% of Pick n Pay packaging be reusable or recyclable and that 100% of cardboard and paper used for Pick n Pay packaging be responsibility sourced, by 2025.
Further, it also plans to ensure that, by 2025, its packaging comprises 30% recycled content, to reduce the average packaging weight of Pick n Pay branded products by 30% and to increase the sales of reusable bags by 30%.
By 2023, all Pick n Pay-branded products will also feature the new on-pack recycling label to help customers understand how best to recycle their packaging.
These targets come as Pick n Pay becomes a signatory, and a founding member, to the recently launched South Africa Plastic Pact – a South African initiative aimed at promoting a circular economy.
Pick n Pay commercial retail executive Paula Disberry says extensive work has been done to ensure that a significant proportion of packaging on own brand products includes recycled materials.
This has extended into the company’s deli and bakery sections. On a trial basis, selected stores have replaced polystyrene takeaway boxes with foil and cardboard boxes.
“A key focus is reducing the weight of our product packaging which will have a significant impact. For example, our value-added vegetable bags have maintained a 30 micron thickness, which means that we save, on average, 12 t/y of plastic packaging.
“We’ve also reduced the weight of our plastic herb punnets by 28%, which will result in a reduction of 20 t/y of plastic.”
Pick n Pay has also begun trialling initiatives to remove packaging from selected products altogether.
“Our nude fruit and vegetable produce walls are now available in 29 stores after overwhelming customer participation. These offer loose seasonal produce that was previously only available in packaging,” says Disberry.
The company is piloting an entire Packaging-Free Zone in its Constantia store in Cape Town. Customers can “pick and weigh” over 88 products across 15 different categories from cereals and pasta to olive oil.
Disberry adds that the company has also seen a positive shift in plastic bags.
“Our reusable netted produce bags have been particularly popular with customers with more than 100 000 being sold last year. We also sold 2.3-million reusable bags – a 50% year-on-year increase when compared to 2018.
“Our new R4 reusable bags, made from green recycled polyethylene terephthalate bottles, have played a significant role in driving the shift from a plastic shopping bag to a reusable bag.”
To complement the company’s efforts, Disberry says it is vital to be part of collaborative initiatives, such as the South Africa Plastic Pact and the Ellen MacArthur New Plastics Global Commitment.