Waitrose to launch refillable zone in 'bold' pilot to reduce plastic waste

Waitrose is piloting a scheme which will save plastic and packaging from landfill.
Waitrose is piloting a scheme which will save plastic and packaging from landfill.
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A dedicated refillable zone including wine and beer on tap, the UK's first supermarket frozen fruit ‘pick and mix’ and a borrow-a-box scheme are among a series of ideas being trialled in a Waitrose scheme to cut back on packaging.

"Waitrose Unpacked" will see the supermarket, which has seven branches in Scotland, will remove plastic from flowers and plants, offer 160 loose fruit and vegetable products and provide an automatic detergent and washing up liquid dispenser at a pilot of the scheme in Oxford. If successful, it will be rolled out to other stores UK-wide.

The chain says the initiative, which will also see coffee, cereal and wine and beer available in refillable containers, has the potential to save thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging. Shoppers will also be able to borrow a box from store to shop with and then take home before returning on their next visit., while frozen mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple and raspberries are packaging free and will be available as pick and mix.

Environmental campaigners branded the move a "genuinely bold step".

Tor Harris, head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, said: “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.

“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.”

The test, which will be branded with ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ across the shop to maximise awareness, will run for a period of 11 weeks until 18 August as the supermarket seeks feedback from customers.

Ariana Densham, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “This is a genuinely bold step from Waitrose to trial food dispensers so customers can use refillable tubs and jars. Lots of supermarkets are starting to sell loose fruit and 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.”