Waitrose is leading the way in the UK supermarkets’ pursuit of cutting single-use plastic waste with their “Unpacked” trial in Oxford.
Packaging has been removed from 75% of produce, with more fragile items sold in cardboard punnets, while flowers are wrapped in recyclable craft paper or in fibre-based pots rather than the classic cellophane wrap and plastic pots. Customers are then offered compostable or reusable cotton bags to put other produce in.
The packaging revelation continues further through the store with refill dispensers for certain dried foods! Not only does this minimise packaging waste – but also facilitates a cut down in food waste, where customers take only what they need, rather than what is available/cheapest.
While this presents a great shift towards increasing the value of plastic materials through their reuse, it is vital that safety standards are maintained. Plastic packaging helps to preserve certain produce for longer, while lots of loose products increases the risk of food contamination. It may also take consumers a while to adapt and therefore the right behaviour must also be encouraged with regards to actually reusing the containers and bags available – not using more each time they shop.
“Unpacked” is the latest in a line of initiatives lined up by the store, with their recent pledge to cut out black plastic, which isn’t widely recycled in the UK. While last year they stopped handing out disposable coffee cups in store.