(Instagram: @unbiodiversity)
  • Spar Western Cape won't offer customers a single plastic bag on Tuesday, in celebration of ‘International Plastic Bag Free Day’.
  • Last year, it sold more than 68 million plastic bags in the province.
  • Other retailers - including Woolworths, Pick n Pay and Shoprite - have announced their own anti-plastic initiatives.

Not a single plastic bag will be sold in Spar stores throughout the Western Cape and Namibia on Tuesday, in celebration of International Plastic Bag Free Day.

Spar sold over 68,256,000 plastic bags in the Western Cape in 2017 alone, Spar Western Cape and Namibia managing director Mario Santana said. 

“It’s no longer a question of if we should add our voice to the global commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle – but how,” Santana added. 

Most South African supermarkets have recently announced efforts to curtail their use of plastic packing. Woolworths South Africa announced that it plans to reduce its packaging waste to landfill sites to zero.   

Shoprite claimed it was the first group supermarket to offer plastic bags made from recycled plastic and Pick n Pay also plans to convert to all of its bags to recyclable bags by August

Food Lover’s Market also announced that it got rid of all plastic straws in its stores country-wide in June.

But shops are probably not dropping plastic for high-minded reasons only - going green could have a powerful impact on customer loyalty.

"It isn’t unheard of now for shoppers to prefer one supermarket brand over another, purely because they express a serious commitment to recycled content in packaging or encourage their shoppers to bring their bags every time they shop," Jeremy Sampson, director at Brand Finance Africa, told Business Insider SA.

Shops are using their environmental strategies as brands need to build loyalty with customers, especially as competition from online competitors grows.

“Eco-citizenship is a high priority, with especially younger people recognising the importance of sustaining the planet so that they can have a prosperous future,” said Rachel Thompson, consumer researcher GfK South Africa, in a recent report about consumer trends in SA.  Millennials, aged between 26 and 34, is currently South Africa’s largest consumer market. 

“Consumers are increasingly aware on the impact they have on others and on the planet through the consumption decisions they make.” 

In addition, Samspon says it is crucial that supermarkets keep aligned with government policy – which is increasingly unsympathetic to plastic waste.

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