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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Goodbye packaging, hello refill zones

Pasta, washing up liquid and wine are being sold through dispensers at Waitrose as part of a pioneering, packaging-free trial.

Shoppers will be able to fill up their own containers in a special “refill zone” of the supermarket which also includes a “pick-and-mix” for various frozen fruits that work out cheaper than the packaged equivalent. If you forgot your own container, never fear: customers can “borrow a box” from the store to shop with, then return it on their next visit.

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.

The ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ initiative is being tested at a store in Oxford and features 28 pantry-style products including pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and seeds. all available via dispensers. Elsewhere in the store, plastic has been removed from flowers and plants and replaced with 100 percent recyclable craft paper. Four wines and four beers are available on tap to take home in reusable bottles. Customers can grind their own coffee to take home in their own personal jar or bag. Waitrose has also partnered with the eco brand Ecover, to set up an automatic detergent and washing-up liquid dispenser where customers can refill their reusable containers.

Ariana Densham, Ocean Plastics Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, labelled the move a “genuinely bold step from Waitrose.”

Sian Sutherland, meanwhile, who is co-founder of campaign group ‘A Plastic Planet’ commended Waitrose for “not just reducing plastic but reducing packaging itself”.

“The bonus of this is that we shoppers can buy exactly what we need, no more, no less. This should result in less food waste at home too – a double whammy win for the purse and the planet.”

She added people were “fed up” of filling their recycling bins in the “false hope” that it would actually get recycled. “It is up to us, the public, to make this trial a success.”

Waitrose aims to make all own-brand products recyclable, reusable or home compostable in the next four years. The trial will run for 11 weeks until August 18. The supermarket said it is “seeking as much feedback as possible”.

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