Explanation of results from the tally table
Twelve foods and their packaging sold at Woolworths as well as their plastic bags and trolleys have been investigated. Products that people normally buy every time they go grocery shopping at Woolworths have been chosen. The results were interesting because it brought awareness of what packaging can be recycled and what can’t. The results show that there is more packaging that can be recycled than non-recyclable. It was found that most of the packaging that can’t be recycled are the plastic trays which are labelled ‘not recycled currently’. Other packaging that is recyclable is labelled ‘widely recycled’. The food product that consists of more than one packaging is more likely to have one packaging that cannot be recycled. This has made me realize that it is important to read recycling labels because sometimes people just assume that all the packaging is recyclable.
On Facebook a page called Unpacked posted a link to a survey sent out by Woolworths about their recycling and not currently recyclable labels. This survey shows that recycling is important to Woolworths and they want feedback from consumers so they can improve. The survey explained that the ‘not recycled currently label’ meant that these packaging’s are just not widely recycled in South Africa due to the lack of collection and recycling infrastructure, as well as unsustainable business models for products made from recycled materials. This survey helped me understand more about what the labels mean which made the tally table more comprehensible.
Linking results to the source analysis
The results from the tally table have helped conclude that most of Woolworths packaging is made from recyclable material and can be recycled, for example their plastic bags, and milk cartons. However, other component parts of some products packaging are not able to be recycled, for example, the wrap of the hotdog rolls, plastic trays and plastic films as well as the bag of the biltong sticks. This is because facilities for recycling these materials are not widely available in South Africa at the moment. These parts of the packaging have the label “not currently recyclable” which is there to inform customers to not dispose these packaging components with other recyclables to avoid contamination of valuable recyclable material.
Referring back to the Source Analysis, Source two stated “Almost all materials used by Woolworths for packaging are technically recyclable, but due to limitations and availability in the collection and recycling infrastructure in South Africa, it is only the rigid, heavy containers (cartons, glass bottles and metal cans) that are widely recycled… The light flexible containers (bags, wraps and films), often contaminated with food hold very little value for recyclers and are not yet widely recycled”. This source justified the research in the tally table as to why the plastic trays/film are not recyclable.
In the survey (question B) consumers were asked if they recycle Woolworths plastic bags. The secondary research shows that the trolleys and plastic bags are recyclable. In source one we are told “Their green plastic food bags are made from a minimum 70% post-consumer and manufacturing waste.” This is done in order to reduce the amount of waste that goes in landfills and to save natural resources. In the survey it is evident that 62,5% of Woolworths consumers recycle their plastic bags, which is a positive result. This information also supports the results from the research table which shows that both the plastic bags and trolleys are recyclable.
Question E of the survey asked consumers how often they read recycling labels. This question links to question H which asks if consumers understand the meaning of the recycling symbols because reading the recycling labels would be pointless if consumers don’t know what they mean. Referring back to Source 2 it is said that Woolworths introduced On Pack Recycling Labels which are based on what can actually be recycled to help consumers recycle their packaging. Looking at the results for question H of the survey it is evident that Woolworths aim for the On-Pack Recycling Labels- which is making recycling information clearer so much more waste will be recycled- has been reached. Even though it was found that only 50% of consumers read the recycling labels sometimes/often, 62.5% of the people understand what the recycling labels mean and in turn they recycle their packaging (question C in survey). Source 1 states “They design packaging for easier recyclability and the on-pack recycling labels tell customers what each pack contains and how to properly dispose them”. Therefore, this makes it easier and effortless to recycle their packaging.
Source 2 provides examples of what packaging is widely recycled by Woolworths. “It is only the rigid, heavy containers (cartons, glass bottles and metal cans) that are widely recycled”. Consumers were asked in question D of the survey what packaging they mostly recycle. Results from this question back up the previous statement from source 2 because it was found that 38% of consumers recycle metal cans ,25% recycle glass bottles and 12,5% recycle plastic tubs and bottle lids. It is also shown that 25% of consumers recycle milk cartons which has been made recyclable as “Woolworths replaced plastic milk bottles with a version containing 30% plant-based material, made from sugar cane, a renewable raw-material source that captures CO2 and reduces dependence on oil-based alternatives.”
Discussed in source 1, Woolworths uses recycled materials wherever possible and they try to purchase materials from certified sustainable sources wherever possible. Woolworth has also committed to sourcing packaging materials from sustainable sources as part of their deforestation commitment. This relates back to question F asked in the survey which asked if consumers are aware of the effort Woolworths is making to have a less harmful effect on the environment by using recyclable packaging. Results from the survey show that majority of the people (62,5%) are aware of the effort Woolworths is making, however, many of them don’t know why recycling is important to Woolworths.
Question G in the survey asked if consumers know why recycling is important to Woolworths. 75% of consumers answered “no, they don’t know why recycling is important”. Woolworths has answered this question in source 2 which stated that Woolworths hopes that more waste will be recycled with the aim of less contamination occurring in recycling streams and more investment being made in the recycling infrastructure. Reasons from consumers who answered yes to the question include, “to protect the environment”, “to reduce pollution” and “preserve natural resources”.
Referring back to question Source 1 as well as source 3 justifies and gives examples as to how Woolworths is trying to have a less harmful effect on the environment through recyclable packaging. Source 3 is titled “Woollies turns to recycled packaging” and reports that Woolworths has become the first major South African retailer to use post-consumer recycled plastics in its food packaging. By doing this they are helping to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to cut its dependence on imported oil stocks needed to make virgin plastic. Woolworths’ has introduced containers made with 30% recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET), which is made from recycled plastic bottles. By recycling one ton of PET bottles 6.2 cubic metres of landfill space is saved as well as enough energy to keep a 15-watt energy-saver light glowing for 24 hours and there is no compromise on food safety. It also helps create jobs, the source tells us that roughly 10 000 people earn income from collecting bottles. Recycling PET reduces carbon dioxide emissions and cuts dependence on imported oil stocks used to make virgin plastic. It also helps create jobs, it’s estimated that some 10 000 people earn income from collecting bottles.
I have concluded that Woolworths uses recyclable packaging to a large extent in order to have a less harmful effect on the environment. When it comes to packaging Woolworths prefers materials that are renewable and recyclable in South Africa. Referring back to Source 2, they are committed to designing packaging for recyclability, minimising the need for non-renewable resources, as well as driving the market for recycled material through inclusion of recycled content in their packaging and products.
The survey has helped me understand people’s perspective regarding recycling packaging as there is no point in Woolworths trying their best to protect the environment when people are not aware of the importance of recycling.
It has been found that majority of the people shop at Woolworths and do recycle their packaging, however, half of the people do not read recycling labels. As mentioned before, parts of the packaging are labelled “not currently recyclable” (as shown in the research table). Even though people might think that they are doing a good deed by recycling, they might be causing more damage than they think when not reading the recycling labels. By recycling “not currently recyclable” packaging’s they are actually contaminating other valuable recyclable material. This emphasizes the fact that Woolworths should highlight what packaging can be recycled and what packaging can’t be recycled to customers. Woolworths can use their survey on the Facebook page “Unpacked” to make recycling information more noticeable so that customers are more easily aware. By doing this Woolworths will strengthen their efforts further to ensure a less harmful effect on the environment by recycling.
Although Woolworths makes a great effort to make their packaging recyclable, they should stress the importance of recycling to them and their aim of recyclable packaging so that consumers will take recycling more seriously. As shown in the survey 62.5% of consumers recycle Woolworths packaging and only 25% know why recycling is important to Woolworths. By advertising the importance and benefits of recycling more, more consumers will participate which will have a positive effect of Woolworths efforts.
In conclusion, Woolworths, to a large extent, uses recycled material wherever possible and ensures that most of their packaging is recyclable. By doing this they are helping to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and to cut its dependence on imported oil stocks which in turn has a less harmful effect on the environment and makes consumers more aware.