Money and Markets

We tested plastic shopping bags from Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, and Woolworths to see which can handle the most weight - they all surprised us

Business Insider SA
Plastic bag stress test
Plastic stress test.
  • We tested plastic bags from Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths to see which holds the most weight.
  • We filled them with massive bottles of wine.
  • All of the bags surprised us.

An estimated two million bags are thrown away every minute globally, and just 5% of people re-using shopping bags. 

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), South Africans use between 30 kg and 50 kg of plastic per person per year. Single-use plastics are typically cheap, produced in bulk and carelessly discarded without being reused or recycled. The majority ends up in landfills or in the environment.

The hope of environmentalists is that SA consumers become 'plastic savvy’, opting to re-use their single use plastic and reduce the amount of plastic they bring home when shopping.

Business Insider South Africa devised a stress test to find out which bags could handle the most weight – to maximise the amount of groceries you can carry in a single bag.

For the test, we looked at the 24 litre plastic bags of Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths  and filled them with the one item we all fear will shatter into a million pieces when on a cash-strapped shopping experience: wine.

And since we were going budget, we chose to stock up with student favourites Paarl Perle and Autumn Harvest. They were also the heaviest bottles we could find in the liquor store.

Our goal was to fit as many wine bottles into a single bag and then shake it until the bag broke.

We were able to push the bags well beyond their recommended limit of 5kg by a country mile: 

All of the 24 litre plastic bags could hold weight upwards of 13.6kg, that’s three bottles of Autumn Harvest (2.4kg) and two of Paarl Perle (3.2kg)

Checkers plastic bags cost 60c each and held the least weight, at 13.6kg. One bottle or Paarl Perle was sadly sacrificed during this test. 

One bottle did not survive. Photo Jay Caboz

We pushed the Checkers' 60c plastic bag to its limit. It held out to 13.6kg of weight with the equivalent of two bottles of Paarl Perle and three of Autumn Harvest. The Checkers packet is made from 100% recycling and is recyclable. 

Woolworths' 62c plastic bags held 15.2kg.                                                               

Woolworths plastic bag

Woolworths said depending on the application of the bag it has been weight tested to carry 5kg. Our test pushed this well beyond its limit holding out to three times its expected weight at 15.2kg (or one bottle of Paarl Perle and five Autumn Harvests).

The plastic bags are made locally out of 70% recycled material, 5% master batch (colour pigment) and 25% virgin high density polyethylene (HDPE).  The bag has no calcium carbonate so is 100% recyclable.

Spar's new 69c plastic bag held an impressive 16kg.

Spar plastic bag.

Spar's latest bag is 100% recyclable made from 75% post-consumer waste. The new bag performed well, holding 16kg, the equivalent of two bottles of Paarl Perle and four Autumn Harvests. 

Spar plastic bag.

The ultimate winner was Pick n Pay's plastic bag. 

Pick n Pay
Pick n Pay plastic bag

While it was able to hold the same amount of weight as our runner-up, tt won by a hair's breadth because it comes in at a cheaper price of 55c. 


All four bags were able to hold way beyond what their recommended bearing weight is.

Which means you can feel comfortable knowing that you can squeeze in more groceries that you think, and buy less packets. And it would be a waste to throw them away after a single use. 

For more, go to Business Insider South Africa.

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