How SA’s supermarkets are utilising recycled materials

Many of South Africa’s supermarkets and retailers are finding innovative ways to incorporate recycled materials into their stores and services. Sustainability and eco-friendly processes are becoming more popular, even in the country’s biggest shopping chains. From zero-waste packaging and recycled shopping trolleys to reusable bag drop-offs and sustainable clothing, SA’s supermarkets are making strides in the green economy.

One of the first steps towards reducing plastic waste was the introduction of recycled and reusable shopping bags. These were launched in 2003 by Pick n Pay and quickly became a staple offering at nearly every supermarket, including Woolworths and Checkers. These shopping bags are made from stitch-bonded non-woven materials, which is a sustainable textile made from recycled plastic bottles.

Romatex is a leading manufacturer and supplier of stitchbond in South Africa. Every year, we produce around 24 million square metres of this fabric, which is enough to keep 54 million plastic bottles out of landfills and the environment. We supply stitchbond to companies that manufacture reusable shopping bags and other products, and we have the ability to print custom logos and other information on the fabric.

stitch-bonded non-woven material shopping bag with carrots and lettuce inside it

Recycled materials revolution

Stitchbond bags were the start of a revolution. Sustainability soon became a competitive sphere for local supermarkets, with several innovative ideas soon being launched to give retailers a competitive edge. Today, many supermarket chains offer various products and services that revolve around recycled materials.

For instance, Shoprite Checkers recently launched shopping trolleys made from recycled plastics – mainly old milk bottles. This diverts over 40 tonnes of plastic waste from landfills every year. While Checkers has provided recycled trolleys since 2018, this is the first time a major retailer has launched 100% recycled plastic trolleys and shopping baskets. 

It takes 180 milk bottles to create a trolley and 110 bottles to produce a basket. “We’ve set ambitious targets to reduce our environmental impact and will continue to step up efforts to reach these as part of our wider sustainability strategy. This change is just one of several initiatives we have introduced across our operations,” says Shoprite Group sustainability manager Sanjeev Raghubir.

Checkers also rewards customers for reusing shopping bags, through the ‘planet bag’ regards programme. It has also introduced fully-recyclable and responsibly-sourced boxes for some of its packaging products and is the first retailer in South Africa to recycle all of its sanitising wipes from its 1328 stores across the country.

Possibilities of eco bricks in South Africa

Other sustainable initiatives

Woolworths has long been a leading supermarket when it comes to green initiatives. From energy and water to clothing and packaging, the brand has been on a drive to improve its environmental impact across the board. Woolworths also offers recycled trolleys and signage in all of its stores, and through a partnership with Hangerman, it has recovered and recycled over 350 million clothes hangers from South African landfills.

Woolworths has managed a 40% reduction in energy usage across its stores and a 250 000 kilowatt-hour solar panel array has been installed at its headquarters. The company also uses treated borehole water and harvested rainwater at most of its offices. Its stores also use recycled greywater systems to reduce its overall municipal water usage by 52% since 2008. 

The company has introduced recycled plastic fibres into its clothing too. More than 10 million recycled plastic bottles have been turned into fibres for its jeans and t-shirts. In addition, one-third of the cotton used to manufacture these clothing items is sourced responsibly. Textile waste can be recycled, so these sorts of initiatives are great for the environment.

Romatex holds sustainability close to its core. Half of our business revolves around stitchbond and we’re investing in new equipment and processes to increase our capacity. We supply this recycled fabric to several companies that make recycled shopping bags for SA’s various supermarkets. For more information about our various products and textiles, please contact us today.


Romatex has been a leading manufacturer and supplier of stitch-bonded non-woven materials and homeware for over 50 years. Romatex is a Level 2 B-BBEE company that is owned by Deneb Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). 

Our head office is based in Cape Town but we have branches in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Free State. For more information about our products, please contact Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram for our latest news and industry insights.

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