Woolworths has announced its first trial of specially-designed paper bags for fashion, beauty and homeware purchases. Photo: File

DURBAN - Woolworths has announced its first trial of specially-designed paper bags for fashion, beauty and homeware purchases.  

The announcement of the specially designed bags is a part of the company's ongoing commitment to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags by 2020. 

The stand-out feature of the new paper bags is that it is made out of 100 percent recycled paper.  The paper used in their production is recovered from used cardboard and boxes from the mill where Woolworths itself sends its cardboard waste, resulting in a ‘closed loop- recycling’ paper shopping bag in line with circular economy principles.  

The design process has included durability to ensure the bags can handle the weights and sizes of different fashion, beauty and homeware items.  From the consumer perspective, the bags may be re-used for ongoing fashion, beauty and homeware purchases, but will be unsuitable for food purchases as paper bags simply can’t stand up to the inevitable moisture of cold chains items.  

The new paper bags will also be fully recyclable, making it easy for Woolies’ customers to dispose of the bags responsibly and ensure they don’t go ultimately to landfill.

"The Woolworths paper bag has been designed as a true win-win," said  Feroz Koor: Woolworths Holdings Group Head of Sustainability.  

Koor added, "We are looking forward to getting the trial underway so that we can gauge customer reactions and put the necessary logistics into action.  We currently give out 30 million single-use plastic bags a year for the purchases of fashion, beauty and homeware products, so it’s going to be a big step towards our ZERO waste to landfill 2022 commitment to remove this from our waste streams". 

The trial of the ‘paper bags at Woolworths Blue Route in Cape Town, which is a large full-line store, offers the opportunity to assess all three sizes of the new bag.  In addition, the store is based in Tokai within easy reach of Woolies Head Office which makes monitoring the trial and addressing any concerns more efficient.

The paper bags are bulkier and they take up seven times more space than their plastic counterparts. This has numerous implications for delivery, storage both at the store and at till points; ordering and replenishing processes.  

Time needs to be taken for store staff to gain experience in packing the different bags in the best possible ways, and customer responses need to be researched and understood.

According to Koor, there is no charge for the paper bag that the retailer is trialling the paper bag at the Blue Route store. 

Last year Woolworths launched a low cost reusable bag that for food purchases has been very well received by customers which has resulted in the retailer rolling it out to additional stores with more to come.

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