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Waitrose testing new “Unpacked” concept that could save thousands of tonnes of packaging & plastic.
Waitrose testing new “Unpacked” concept that could save thousands of tonnes of packaging & plastic.

Waitrose trials refill and bring-your-own containers scheme to reduce waste


By Elias Jahshan - Jun 5th, 09:17

Waitrose has launched a new scheme where customers will be able to fill up or refill their own containers with a range of products as part of its ambitions to reduce waste. 

The Waitrose Unpacked initiative, currently on trial its Botley Road shop in Oxford, will provide a dedicated refill zone with dispensers for pasta, rice, coffee and washing up liquid, 160 loose fruit and veg, and a variety of beers and wines on tap.

The scheme also features the UK’s first supermarket “pick and mix” for frozen fruit, and customers will also be able to “borrow a box” from the store to shop with and then return on their next visit.

Plastic has also been removed from flowers and plants and replaced with 100 percent recyclable craft paper.

Waitrose said its Botley Road store has been transformed to take hundreds of products out of their packaging for the Unpacked trial.

Packaged equivalents of the products will remain in their usual areas as a test to see if shoppers change how they shop.

The trial will run for 11 weeks until August 18, with Waitrose seeking as much feedback as possible.

The grocer added that the ideas have the potential to save on thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging.

“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,” Waitrose head of corporate social responsibility Tor Harris said.

“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.”

Greenpeace UK ocean plastics campaigner Ariana Densham 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.”

Waitrose’s “Unpacked” concepts include:

Produce unpacked – 160 loose fruit and vegetable products will be available at the store – the loosest fruit and vegetable lines offered by any national supermarket
Frozen pick and mix – Frozen mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, and raspberries are packaging free and will be available as pick and mix
Plastic removed from flowers and plants – Plastic wrap has been removed from all flowers and indoor plants and replaced with 100% recyclable and 100% PEFC certified craft paper
Detergent and washing up liquid refillable – Waitrose & Partners is the first supermarket to partner with Ecover and provide an automatic detergent and washing up liquid dispenser where customers will be able to refill their reusable Ecover containers
Wine and beer refillable – Four different wines and four different beers available on tap to take home in reusable bottles to cut down on the use of glass bottles
Coffee refills – Customers can grind one of four coffees in store to take home in a reusable container to reduce glass and plastic packaging
Essential refillable – 28 products including pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit, and seeds have been taken out of packaging and will be available through dispensers
Borrow-a-box scheme – In a UK first, shoppers can borrow-a-box from store to shop with and then take home before returning on their next visitRetail Gazette 

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