We’re committed to minimising waste across our business, from packaging to the fabric used to make Woolies clothing. 

Our customers have always held us accountable for non-recyclable packaging, and we’ve really taken this to heart. Since 2018, we’ve been on a journey of zero packaging waste to landfill, and ensuring that all our packaging will be reusable or recyclable by 2022. We’ve made great progress towards our ambitious goal, especially when it comes to eliminating single-use plastic shopping bags, and finding innovative ways to use waste to make new packaging and products. 

We’re committed to:

  • Minimising waste from our head office, distribution centre and stores
  • Designing products with circular economy principles in mind
  • Minimising the need for non-renewable resources in our products 
  • Encouraging the recycling of our packaging
  • Striking the balance between food safety, clear labelling, product quality and minimising packaging and food waste




Recycling at head office

We use an online system to track waste streams on a real-time basis at our head office. Waste streams are sorted and sent for recycling.

Recycling at stores

All Woolworths’ secondary and tertiary packaging used in our stores, such as cardboard cartons and protective packaging, is collected, managed, and recycled from stores using existing logistics operations, or utilising reverse logistics within our existing network.

Recycling at distribution centres

Our distribution centres manage waste from a number of sources, including transit packaging, waste generated at stores returned via reverse logistics, as well as waste generated on site. All these waste streams are sorted and sent for recycling.

Surplus food and clothing

Woolworths is also one of the founding members of the SA Food Loss & Waste Voluntary Agreement. Through this agreement, we have committed to a 50% reduction in edible food waste going to landfill by 2030. Woolworths donates surplus food from its stores to local charities. This is food that is past its ‘sell by’ date, but not its ‘use by’ date.

Woolworths also donates all surplus clothing from stores to Taking Care of Business (TCB). Customers can also donate their pre-loved clothing at selected stores across the country, also for donation to Taking Care of Business.

Hanger recycling

The hangers used in Woolworths stores are made from a minimum of 50% recycled material. To ensure that they do not become waste, used hangers are collected from all Woolworths stores for recycling or refurbishment and reuse.

Customer takeback

We have rolled out the following at Woolworths stores and WCafes around the country:

  • Coffee cup, compact fluorescent lighbulb and battery recycling bins
  • Reverse vending machines
  • Clothing recycling bins

In partnership with ImagineIf, we have also established recycling collection villages at selected shopping centres.

Online packaging

All Woolworths ‘void fill’ – or stuffing - used for our online deliveries is made of 100% recycled and recyclable content, which is locally sourced. We have also phased out the hologram on the accompanying dispatch documentation, which makes the documents fully recyclable.

On-pack recycling label

A few years ago, we introduced On-Pack Recycling Labels (OPRL) on Woolworths products. These are labels on product packaging indicating what can actually be recycled in metropolitan areas in South Africa. By making recycling information clearer, we hope that much more waste will be recycled, less contamination will occur in recycling streams, and that more investments will be made into recycling infrastructure.

Circular fashion

We continue to investigate alternative, renewed and recycled materials for use in our clothing products to ensure a circular economy.


  • Woolworths is one of the founding members of the South African Plastics Pact, a collective initiative that brings together key stakeholders from the local plastics chain, including businesses, the South African government, and NGOs, to tackle plastic waste and pollution at its source
  • Woolworths is working to phase out single-use plastic shopping bags


  • Remember to bring your own reusable bags when shopping
  • Use our customer takeback facilities in stores – recycling bins for compact fluorescent lightbulbs, batteries, coffee cups, clothing as well as our reverse vending machines
  • Minimise food waste by buying only what you need and using leftovers where possible
  • Buy products and packaging that contain recycled material and/or are recyclable. Look out for this information on the on-pack recycling labelling