Waitrose tells customers to ‘bring your own containers’ in trial to cut plastic and packaging

waitrose packaging

Waitrose is starting a trial aimed at reducing packaging by removing plastic from flowers and plants and offering more loose fruit and vegetables.

Customers will be able to use their own containers to buy and refill produce such as pasta, rice and cereals.

The supermarket chain, part of John Lewis & Partners, also says it will be the first to offer “pick and mix” frozen fruit.

It says it wants to find out how people might shop in the future.

The trial is taking place at a store in Oxford where Waitrose says hundreds of products have been taken out of their packaging and there will be about double the usual amount of fruit and vegetables package-free.

In what it describes as a first in the UK, customers will be able to “borrow a box’ to take their produce home for a £5 deposit which is refundable when the box is returned.

Wine and beer refills will also be offered as will Ecover detergent and washing up liquid.

The trial is the latest among the major supermarkets to try to cut down on packaging.

According to a report by Greenpeace last year, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco allow customers to use their own reusable containers for certain products bought over the counter, such as meat and fish.

Since then, at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, Tesco and French supermarket Carrefour have said they would trial an online shopping service based on refillable rather than recyclable containers.

At the time, they said a limited number of items such as toiletries, ice cream and breakfast cereals will be available to testers who sign up to the trial.

Produce in Waitrose’s unpacked refill stations will be up to 15% cheaper and consumers will be encouraged to use their own containers apart from for beer and wine and Ecover products.

Waitrose said the frozen pick and mix fruit – such as mango, strawberries and cherries – at 50p per 100g would be cheaper per 100g than the packaged equivalent.

Tor Harris, head of corporate social responsibility for Waitrose, said the chain wanted to “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,” she said.

Ariana Densham, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “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.”

Supermarkets have been cutting down on the use of plastic bags.

Last month, Morrisons started selling paper bags in all its stores while Co-op has been using compostable bags to replace single-use plastic bags in some stores.

Waitrose no longer offers 5p single-use carrier bags although sells other bags for 10p each.