Waitrose Unpacked Refills

Source: Waitrose

A packaging-free frozen fruit pick & mix zone is just one of the concepts Waitrose will trial this summer as it seeks to reduce thousands of tonnes of plastic packaging.

The initiative, which will run for 11 weeks until 18 August, aims to establish how customers might be enticed to shop differently in the future when presented with environmentally friendly options.

The ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ push will see its Botley Road store in Oxford remove hundreds of products from their packaging and give shoppers the chance to refill items including Ecover detergent and washing-up liquid, wine and beer.

Shoppers will also have the chance to grind their own coffee, and buy pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and seeds from dispensers.

As many as 160 loose fruit & vegetable products will be sold and plastic will be removed from flowers and indoor plants in favour of 100% recyclable and 100% PEFC certified craft paper.

In addition, the retailer is introducing a borrow-a-box scheme that enables shoppers to shop with a box supplied by the store, which is taken home and returned on their next visit.

“We are determined to build on the work we’ve already done to reduce packaging - and this test will take our efforts to a whole new level as we help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way,” said Waitrose head of CSR Tor Harris,

“This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future, so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for. We know we’re not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different.”

Greenpeace UK ocean plastics campaigner Ariana Densham praised the move.

“This is a genuinely bold step from Waitrose to trial food dispensers so customers can use refillable tubs and jars,” she said.

“Lots of supermarkets are starting to sell loose fruit & vegetables, which is good, but more importantly this kind of innovation could spark a refill culture that’s so desperately needed to cut plastics in mainstream shops. The top 10 UK supermarkets produce 810,000 tonnes of throwaway packaging each year, so we need to see other major retailers taking plastic reduction seriously and following Waitrose’s lead.”

Waitrose said packaged equivalents of the products would remain in their usual areas to create an effective test and added a feedback survey would be available on its website.

The activity is being supported by a Twitter and Instagram push using the hashtag #WaitroseUnpacked.