Morrisons has barely been out of the headlines of late. Take this week, with the ongoing takeover saga, the half-year results showing a 41.9% slump in profits, the warnings about “industry-wide” price hikes, and the decision to cut sick pay for unvaccinated employees who need to isolate.
Predictably, that sick pay news proved controversial, with Unite national health & safety adviser Rob Miguel warning that “strong-arm tactics will result in issues around equalities” and anti-vaxxers vowing on Twitter to #BoycottMorrisons. At the same time, others on the platform praised the supermarket for making it a “safer” place to shop.
Amid the furore, it was easy to miss some less controversial Morrisons news. That is, the retailer’s plan to become the nation’s first “zero waste” supermarket – as it aims to eliminate all packaging waste and unsold food by 2025.
It’s kicked off a trial across six stores in Edinburgh, which will see all packaging waste – including plastic, cardboard and foil – recycled in the UK. There will also be collection points for shoppers to deposit the likes of crisp bags, face masks and other items not typically recycled.
Surplus food will be offered at a discount through the Too Good To Go app, and distributed to local communities.
If successful, the zero-waste format, run in partnership with Nestlé, will roll out to all 498 Morrisons stores over the next year.
The plan – which comes after the grocer has reduced own-label plastic packaging by 8,000 tonnes since 2017 – is a positive in more ways than one.
Beyond the obvious benefits of less plastic clogging waterways and fuller tummies in low-income households, there is also the strong indication that normality has resumed.
At the height of the pandemic, grocers put many eco-minded measures aside. Concerns about hygiene saw the return of plastic bags and packs, and also put the brakes on refill stations and reusable bags.
If Morrisons’ latest ambition isn’t enough of a sign of a turnaround, also see Tesco. This week, it will begin trialling a refillables aisle across 10 stores, featuring 88 branded and own-label products in reusable and durable packaging.
So, while Covid-19 is still a clear and present health threat, it’s no longer a reason for supermarkets not to put sustainability front and centre. And that’s good news.