Clicks, Food Lovers Market, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite, and Woolworths are all dropping the confusing recycling info on their packaging – here’s how their new unified approach will look

Business Insider SA
Recycle label
New label.
  • Clicks, Food Lovers Market, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite, and Woolworths are going to use the same recycling labelling system across their stores.
  • The label will read simply ‘Recycled’ or ‘Not Recycled’, replacing a complex previous system.
  • In February, Business Insider South Africa found labels were inconsistent, and consumers could easily be confused about what could be recycled.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage. 

From today Clicks, Food Lovers Market, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite, and Woolworths will be rolling out the same system to label their packaging, dropping a confusing previous system.

Known as 'On Pack Recycling Labels' (OPRLs), the new labels will simply indicate whether the packaging can or cannot be recycled.

“Increasing our understanding of the recyclability of a particular type of packaging is only step one in the behaviour change necessary to stop the flow of plastics in nature. We also need to reduce our dependence on single-use plastics,” said Lorren de Kock, Project Manager of the WWF circular plastics project.

The six chains partnered with the WWF to make the change. 

In February, Business Insider SA found labels on South African shelves were confusing, and consumers could easily mistake their packaging as destined for recycling when it was not.

The new labelling system is honest about whether packaging can be recycled, reading simply ‘Recycled’ or ‘Not Recycled’. 

Recycle label
New label.
Recycle label
Former labels.

To qualify as ’Recycled’, packaging must be recycled in practice and at scale in at least one major centre. Whether that is happening will be reviewed regularly. 

While most resin types are technically recyclable, many are not actually recyclable in South Africa.

Recycle label
Former label.

The numbered labels used to date were designed to assist waste collectors and waste separators rather than customers.

The ‘SPI resin identification coding system’ which features the number 1 to 7, usually printed within a triangle and refers to the type of resin contained in the packaging. Because the SPI labels look so much like the recycling symbol, it's a common misinterpretation that the packaging can be recycled in South Africa.

The new information will appear on the packaging label whenever possible, or in the pack design in the case of flexible packaging. The packaging will still include the current resin code of three chasing arrows with coded numbers and sometimes letters.

According to the WWF, a unified label system has been in the pipeline for almost eight years.

Governments around the world are grappling with how to tackle single-use plastic, after China, a giant in global recycling industry, blocked imports of foreign garbage early this year.

 “Concluding a transparent and widely consultative process is no small feat. We trust that it will make both the consumer and the waste-pickers’ task of understanding what is recyclable much easier,” said de Kock

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