Woolworths is once more leading the way when it comes to environmental friendliness in the retail industry with the introduction of baskets and shopping trolleys made of recycled plastic. This is not the first time that Woolworths has broken new ground in the area of sustainability. Past initiatives include being the first retailer to recycle clothes hangers and, two years prior to government legislation, the introduction of heavy-duty, re-usable plastic shopping bags. The recycled baskets are already in use in five of the retailer's biggest stores and are about to go into ten more. The trolleys – which can be distinguished from the existing ones by their dark charcoal colour – will arrive in stores in September with over six thousand in use by the end of October. Both the baskets and trolleys contain a mixture of 'reground' – that's recycled – and virgin material. What makes them even more resource efficient is that the reground material comes from Woolworth's existing fleet of trolleys, which are ground up as they become obsolete. This has the added advantage of efficiently disposing of the old stock. Additional features of the new trolleys include a scannable radio chip that identifies the store to which they belong and new, improved baby seats. The initiative was due to the inspiration of Woolworths' Services Procurement Manager for Selling, Mike Van Heerden. He took his idea to Woolworths' existing trolley supplier who then developed the prototype. Commenting on this initiative, Kevin Stanford, Director of Selling for Woolworths says, “Woolworths is all about 'the difference' and we're always looking for new opportunities to create that difference.” Woolworths as a business places enormous emphasis on sustainability. Over the past few years it has increased its sustainability reporting and was commended this year for being one of only four companies in the top 20% of the medium impact category in JSE's SRI ranking. Woolworths is also in the process of developing their own sustainability index against which it will measure progress against key sustainability criteria. Woolworths looks at sustainability in its broadest sense and that includes creating opportunities for employment. Their decision to recycle hangers, for instance, lead to the formation of the company, Hangerman, which now serves the entire retail industry and last year recycled over seven hundred tons of hangers. Their recently introduced reusable fabric shopping bags are made by a local community-based project which now employs fifty machinists to produce the 160 000 bags a month bought by Woolworths customers nationwide. The Woolworths 'art bag' – a durable plastic bag that features the work of local artists – not only supports the local plastics industry but gives exposure to emerging South African artists. “Part of our being a passionately South African retailer is making sure we do everything we can to protect and enhance the environment in which we do business” says Woolworths' Director of Selling, Kevin Stanford. “This is evident in inspired innovation like our new baskets and trolleys. Plus, because of our direct relationship with our suppliers, we can influence what happens at every link in the supply chain. This is unique in the retail industry in South Africa.”