On its ongoing commitment to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags by 2020, Woolworths has announced its first trial of specially-designed paper bags for fashion, beauty and homeware purchases.  In alignment with its Good Business Journey, every aspect of the impact of the new paper bags has been considered, from improved care for the environment, utilising recycled content, to sourcing the bag from a local medium sized black owned enterprise.

 The stand-out feature of the new paper bags is that it is made out of 100% recycled paper.  The paper used in their production is recovered from used cardboard and boxes from the mill where Woolworths itself has for over the last ten years been sending 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,” says Feroz Koor: Woolworths Holdings Group Head of Sustainability.  “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 transformation from single-use plastic to paper bags is not as simple as one may think.  There are several critical logistical challenges that have to be met.  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.

Woolworths Blue Route, Store Manager, Jason Abramowitz  says, “We are delighted that our store has been chosen for this trial as it leads the way for finding sustainable solutions to our country’s huge plastic pollution issues.  We know that care for the environment is close to our customers’ hearts and are looking forward to joining hands with them at Blue Route Woolies to make this innovative paper bag work out well all round.  We hope that our customers will re-use this bag for ongoing clothing, home and beauty purchases, or for other purposes before deciding to recycle it.”