In line with its commitment to achieving zero packaging waste to landfill by 2022, retailer Woolworths has launched the customer trial of an integrated reverse vending machine in its flagship green store, Woolworths Palmyra, in Claremont.
This, Woolworths says, is good news for the many South African consumers who have called on retailers and manufacturers to reduce packaging waste.
“It might seem like a fun innovation because it’s so smart, but this is actually an important trial,” says Woolworths group sustainability head Feroz Koor.
He explains that packaging plays a vital role in protecting products, highlighting that the effort to reduce pollution is not just about finding ways to minimise packaging in a responsible way but also about supporting consumers in their efforts to recycle, which, in turn, boosts the country’s recycling industry.
“We are very proud to introduce our first in-store recycling vending machine. We know from customer surveys and social media conversations that many customers are concerned about reducing waste and we hope they will be keen to put the recycling vending machine through its paces so that it can be perfected and rolled out to more stores,” he adds.
The vending machine, which identifies recyclability by scanning product bar codes, was tested out over a six-month period at Woolworths’ head office, in Cape Town.
Employees’ recycling efforts helped refine and expand the database and the user experience of the smart machine to amass a database of recyclable packaging barcodes that includes both Woolworths products and other popular brands sold elsewhere.
Takeaway paper coffee cups with barcodes, glass and tin containers, plastic bottles and containers of up to 2.25 l in size and Tetrapak are all accepted by the vending machine.
“Our Palmyra store is where we have trialled the majority of our green initiatives, so we are looking forward to enthusiastic customer engagement. It is also the only retail store in South Africa to receive a five-star rating certified by the Green Building Council South Africa,” Koor notes.
Woolworths says recycling vending machines are increasingly common internationally where consumers participate actively in daily environment-friendly practices. To participate in the waste reduction process, consumers log in as a user of the recycling vending machine using their mobile phones and deposit their clean, barcoded recyclable items.
As part of the scanning and sorting of recyclable items, the user immediately receives an SMS confirmation of their deposit and an encouraging congratulations on being an “eco-warrior”.
A local recycler is alerted when the machine is reaching its capacity to collect the materials and is an integral part of the process that ensures that recyclable packaging does not needlessly end up in landfills, the retailer explains.
“Our zero waste to landfill journey is supported by many Woolworths customers,” Koor concluded.
“We know that they will appreciate this innovation, and that they recognise that we can’t walk this path alone. From producers to household and then beyond to include the South African recycling industry, we need to go forward towards zero waste to landfill, hand in hand.”