JOHANNESBURG - Retailer Pick n Pay, a member of the SA Plastics Pact, on Thursday provided an update on its progress in reducing its use of single-use plastics in its stores, with sales of reusable bags growing by 50 percent last year.
Governments and the public are increasingly sceptical of many consumer plastic products because of their environmental impact, according to a report by S&P Global.
Pick n Pay said it would significantly reduce the impact of single-use plastic and packaging by 2025.
It said that since 2018 the retailer has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce packaging and single-use plastic at its stores and throughout its supply chain.
Its targets for 2025 were to have:
- 100percent of Pick n Pay packaging reusable or recyclable;
- 100percent of cardboard and paper used for Pick n Pay packaging responsibility sourced;
- 30percent average recycled content across all Pick n Pay packaging;
- 30percent reduction in average packaging weight of Pick n Pay branded products; and
- A 30percent increase in the sales of reusable bags.
It said that by 2023 all Pick n Pay-branded products would feature the new on-pack recycling label to help customers understand how best to recycle their packaging.
Paula Disberry, a retail executive: commercial at Pick n Pay, said extensive work had been done to ensure that a significant proportion of packaging on own-brand products included recycled materials, which had been extended to its deli and bakery sections.
On a trial basis, selected stores have replaced polystyrene takeaway boxes with foil and cardboard boxes, she said.
“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 tonnes of plastic packaging every year. We’ve also reduced the weight of our plastic herb punnets by 28percent, which will result in a reduction of 20 tonnes of plastic per year.”
Pick n Pay said it had also begun trialling initiatives to remove packaging altogether from selected products.
“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,” it said.
The company was piloting a packaging-Free zone at its Constantia store in Cape Town. Customers could “pick and weigh” more than 88 products across 15 different categories, from cereals and pasta to olive oil.
Disberry said the company had sold more than 100 000 reusable netted produce bags last year.
About 2.3 million reusable bags were also sold – a 50 percent year-on-year increase compared to 2018.
“Our new R4 reusable bags, made from green recycled PET bottles, have played a significant role in driving the shift from a plastic shopping bag to a reusable bag,” she said.
In South Africa, less than half of all plastic packaging is recycled, with the rest being landfilled or ending up in the environment.
The South African Plastics Pact, which was signed on January 30, includes major retailers, which have agreed to a set of targets to drive significant change by 2025.
The SA Plastics Pact founding members are the Clicks Group, Coca-Cola Africa, Danone, Distell, HomeChoice, Massmart, Myplas, Nampak Rigids, Pick n Pay, Polyoak, Polyplank, Shoprite Group,Spar, Spur Holdings, The Foschini Group, Tigerbrands, Tuffy, Unilever, Addis, Waste Plan and Woolworths.
Other organisations are Fruit South Africa, Sapro, the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation, the Polystyrene Association of South Africa, the PET Recycling Company, the Southern African Vinyls Association, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the City of Cape Town.
By 2025, the SA Plastics Pact hopes to transform the country’s plastic packaging sector by meeting four targets:
- Taking action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models;
- 100percent of plastic packaging must be reusable, recyclable or compostable;
- 70percent of plastic packaging must be effectively recycled; and
- 30percent average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
SA Plastics Pact said in a statement released this week that by meeting these targets it would also stimulate job creation in the plastics collection and recycling sector and help to create new opportunities in product design and reuse business models.