Woolies turns to recycled packaging

19 November 2010

Woolworths has become the first major South African retailer to use post-consumer recycled plastics in its food packaging, helping both to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to cut its dependence on imported oil stocks needed to make virgin plastic.

Since the beginning of September, Woolworths’ ready-to-eat sandwiches have been packed in containers made with 30% recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET), which is made from recycled plastic bottles.

According to Woolworths, recycling one ton of PET bottles not only saves 6.2 cubic metres of landfill space, it also saves enough energy to keep a 15 watt energy-saver light glowing for 24 hours.

No compromise on food safety

Woolworths first began using rPET fibre several years ago for the filling in its duvets and pillows, and also plans to roll out rPET packaging to juice bottles and other plastic packaging shortly.

“Not only is packaging made with rPET more ecologically sound and technologically advanced, there is no compromise on food safety,” Woolworths foods MD Zyda Rylands said in a statement last week.

“The recycled PET comes primarily from locally collected soft drink and water bottles and is scrupulously super-cleaned by the local supplier, who has invested some R20-million in a food grade recycling plant.”

Rylands said the plant was the first recycler in the world to be certified by the British Retail Consortium, and that the resulting recycled plastic met or exceeded international standards for food safety.

Reducing emissions, creating jobs

Recycling PET has economic advantages as well – it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and cuts dependence on imported oil stocks used to make virgin plastic. “It also helps create jobs,” Rylands said. “It’s estimated that some 10 000 people earn income from collecting bottles.”

Rylands said the retailer had now successfully eliminated over 600 tons of foods packaging, with more than 23% of its food products using recycled packaging materials, and most of the sleeves on its ready-made meals, dips and other food products being made from cardboard with a 80% recycled paper content.

SAinfo reporter

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