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Woolworths pilots the removal of plastic barrier bags at 12 stores

9th April 2024

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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Food and clothing retailer Woolworths has launched a 12-store trial to remove plastic barrier bags from its stores.

Starting on April 8 in four Western Cape-based stores, namely Table Bay Mall, Waterstone Village, Plattekloof Village and Palmyra Junction, the eight-week trial will extend on April 15 to an additional eight stores across the Western Cape and Gauteng.

These include stores in the N1 City Mall, Village Square, Canal Walk and Stellenbosch Square in the Western Cape, and Hazeldene Square, Harvest Place, Benmore Gardens and Maroun Square in Gauteng.

“At Woolies, we have a vision of zero packaging waste to landfill and have publicly committed to the removal of unnecessary and problematic plastics from our value chain.

“To deliver on our commitment, we have already removed plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic cotton bud sticks, plastic lollipop sticks, microbeads and single-use shopping bags from all our stores.

“The barrier bag is the last problematic plastic on the [South African] Plastics Pact list that we need to remove and we are ready to work closely with our customers to eliminate it from our stores,” says Woolworths sustainability group head Feroz Koor.

Although plastic barrier bags are technically recyclable, the company says they are too thin to be viable for recycling and are often contaminated with food or waste products, resulting in the bags littering communities, rivers and oceans, or going to landfill.

 “We understand the convenience that barrier bags offer, so we have been working on viable solutions like responsibly sourced paper bags for loose fruit and vegetables in the trial stores, as well as absorbent mats in the fresh flowers area to catch any excess water.

“As part of our ongoing packaging improvements, we’ve also recently introduced rotisserie chicken packaging that is leakproof, thereby, eliminating the need for a plastic barrier bag,” adds Koor.

Throughout the trial, Woolworths will conduct comprehensive research to assess customer and employee response, gauging the effectiveness of the paper bags and gathering feedback on the removal of plastic barrier bags.

Insights gleaned from this trial will inform future trials and facilitate the eventual removal of plastic barrier bags from all Woolworths stores.

“As one of our corporate partners, Woolworths is making strides in the implementation of practical solutions to address the plastic crisis,” World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa circular economy senior manager Lorren de Kock comments.

“Woolworths is also a member of the SA Plastics Pact, where it has been demonstrated that the industry can be a forerunner as a self-regulating collective to transition toward a circular plastics economy before national and global policy kicks in,” she adds.

With the removal of plastic barrier bags from all stores, Woolworths aims to remove 11-million plastic bags every year from polluting the environment, waterways and oceans, or from landfills, the company says.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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