Trolley wipes no longer wasted after Covid-19 pushed demand by 500%

19 October 2021 - 16:55
By Wendy Knowler
It was a massive increase in wipes production which prompted a company to find a recycling solution. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/flowertiare It was a massive increase in wipes production which prompted a company to find a recycling solution. Stock photo.

Huge quantities of discarded trolley wipes are being recycled into plastic crates.

A plastic product may be recyclable, but if it’s not making its way in significant numbers  to a recycling plant, it’s destined to become litter or end up in a landfill.

That’s been the case with trolley wipes, which have been supplied to supermarket shoppers free of charge for the past 15 years. It took Covid-19 to increase demand by 500% overnight last March.

“Made from 100% polypropylene, our trolley wipes are technically recyclable, but being so light and small they weren’t making it to recycling plants,” said Annette Devenish, marketing director at Sani-Touch, the company which pioneered trolley wipes in SA in 2006.

It was the huge increase in wipes production that prompted the company to find a recycling solution. Enter the Sani-Touch recyclable wipe, which shoppers discard in a tall bin in store.

“We’ve created quite a small opening in the bin to prevent shoppers discarding cans, chewing gum and the likes in them, which would contaminate the recycling process,” Devenish said at the Cape Town launch of the new, greener wipes on Tuesday.

The initiative will be made possible by retailers who will “backhaul” used wipes in sealed buckets to their distribution centres, along with cardboard and plastic packaging, and from there to recycling plants.

“The beauty of the system is that it uses retailers’ existing systems to get the wipes to recycling plants,” said the Shoprite group’s head of sustainability Sanjeev Raghubir.

The group will introduce the recyclable wipes to its 1,328 stores, creating huge scale.

The Spar Group’s packaging manager Devin Galtrey told TimesLIVE they had been inspired by Shoprite’s embracing of the wipe recycling initiative and would look at encouraging its store owners to follow suit.

“Pre-saturated wipes proved themselves invaluable in the fight against infections even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in a multitude of settings, including hospitals, clinics, emergency services, retail and hospitality, but it is incumbent on manufacturers to ensure used wipes are recycled and repurposed,” Devenish said.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations for paper, packaging, e-waste and lighting, which come into effect next month, compel producers to take responsibility for the life cycle of the products they put into the market to the point of post-consumer waste disposal.

Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) within industries have been tasked with ensuring their respective sectors meet the new legislative requirements.