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Woolworths is the first South African retailer to remove single-use plastic bags from all foodmarkets

| Going green

Woolworths celebrates National Marine Month with the announcement that ALL their foodmarkets in South Africa and Africa stores are now single-use plastic shopping bag free.

The removal of single-use plastic shopping bags is key to realising Woolworths’ vision for a zero-packaging waste to landfill which includes the phasing out of unnecessary single-use plastics and for all their packaging to be reusable and/or recyclable.  Since announcing this vision, the retailer has also removed single-use plastic straws, utensils, lollipop sticks and cotton bud stems as well as made significant packaging improvements.

“We are deeply committed to our zero-packaging waste to landfill vision and delighted to have reached this target.  Since the beginning of our journey, we have prevented more than

120 million* single-use plastic shopping bags from entering our overburdened waste streams and environment,” says Latiefa Behardien, Woolworths Foods Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer. 

“A critical component for the rollout to over 400 foodmarkets was to ensure that our customers had a cost efficient, durable reusable bag option that was also made locally.  We partnered with a local black-owned supplier and over the last few years have created a sustainable business that in turn created much needed jobs in a tough economic environment. Since 2019 they had started off with 118 employees which has grown over the last three years to 302 employees,” adds Behardien.

“We couldn’t have achieved this milestone without the support of our customers.  We have asked them to make a significant behavioural change which is often not convenient especially with our busy lives.  We are appreciative of our customers responsible packaging behaviour and delighted with their support on this vision. Based on our customer feedback and a great suggestion from ‘The Good News Guy’ – Brent Lindeque, we are currently trialling a ‘bag share’ initiative – Bring a bag/Take a Bag.  The initiative gives customers the opportunity to drop off their excess reusable bags that are still in good condition for other customers who have forgotten theirs to use and return thereafter.  The trial is currently running in our Constantia, Palmyra, St Johns Piazza and Majik Forest stores and should there be a favourable response, we will roll out to more stores upcountry”, confirms Behardien.

“It’s great to see that Woolworths has removed single-use plastic bags from all their foodmarkets and taking on the task of educating their consumers about adopting more reuse actions in their daily lives and supporting local enterprises. Important for the consumer to also understand that these reusable bags need to be reused to carry groceries or repurposed multiple times and not only used once,” comments Lorren de Kock, WWF-SA Project Manager: Circular Plastics Economy.


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