Employee-owned supermarket Waitrose & Partners is testing a concept that could save thousands of tonnes of packaging and plastic.
Among the ideas being tested are: a dedicated refillable zone, a frozen fruit ‘pick and mix’ and a borrow-a-box scheme.
Waitrose says the trial has the potential to save thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic.
The test has been designed to help determine how customers might be prepared to shop differently in the future.
It’s taking place in the firm’s Botley Road shop in Oxford, and means hundreds of products have been taken out of their packaging.
The store now has the largest number of loose fruit and vegetable lines of any national supermarket.
They’ve also removed plastic wrap from flowers and indoor plants and launched refillable options for everything from wine and beer to cereals and coffees as well as cleaning products.
The test, which is being branded ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ across the shop to maximise awareness, will run for a period of 11 weeks until 18th August.
The supermarket is seeking as much feedback as possible and will use this to plan future development of the scheme.
Packaged equivalents of the products will remain in their usual areas to create an effective test.
For example, given the choice between buying packaged or unpackaged fruit and vegetables, the supermarket will observe which option its customers opt for.
Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris 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.”
Other green initiatives
In addition to the trial, Waitrose & Partners has committed to making all of its own-brand packaging either recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.
The supermarket will remove black plastic from all its own-brand products by the end of this year.
It has also already stopped using the hard-to-recycle black plastic packaging from its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg.
Waitrose & Partners recently launched the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging and its single-use plastic bags for loose fruit and veg bags were replaced with a home compostable alternative in May.
In March this year it removed all 5p single-use carrier bags.
By Christmas 2020, its own label cards, wraps, crackers, tags, flowers and plants will either be glitter-free or the retailer will use an environmentally friendly alternative.
The supermarket is also trialling a new “invisible door” which prevents warm air being lost from the store during colder temperatures and cold air being lost during warmer temperatures.