Plastics and packaging


Removing unnecessary plastics is a priority for us – and something we know is equally important to our customers. We’re removing unnecessary packaging in our supply chain where we can, and introducing alternative packaging materials to make recycling easier for customers. 

Our ultimate aim is to eliminate unnecessary plastic and make all own-brand packaging reusable or made out of widely recyclable or home-compostable material by 2023.

We’ve made great progress already, with over 85% of own-brand packaging now meeting our recyclable, reusable or home compostable goal. But we know there’s more we need to do, and that’s why in 2018 we made the decision to bring forward the target by two years, from 2025 to 2023.

‘Making sure our packaging works and is fit for purpose is just part of my job. The other part is ensuring we meet our targets for making it as environmentally friendly as we can. We’ve pledged that by 2023, all own-label packaging will be widely recycled, reusable or home compostable, so we’re working with our suppliers and packaging manufacturers, looking at alternatives to plastics,’ says Karen Graley, Partner and packaging manager.

5 ways we’re tackling plastics and recycling… at Christmas

1.             We’ve removed black plastic from many of our Christmas puddings, mince pie, party food and                 biscuits – and none of our own-label chocolate boxes have black plastic. By the end of 2019,                 we’ll have removed hard-to-recycle black plastic from all own-brand products.

2.             All our own-label flowers and plants are glitter-free – or we’re using an environmentally                 friendly alternative. By Christmas 2020, we’ll be able to say the same about our own-label                 cards, wrap, crackers and tags. We’re already 75% glitter-free. 

3.             We’ve pledged not to sell any Christmas crackers with plastic toys inside from 2020 onwards.                 They will contain toys made from recyclable materials, decorated with embossing and other                 techniques rather than plastic glitter.

4             Our new Christmas chocolate lolly trees use paper sticks instead of plastic ones.

5.             The Waitrose & Partners 12 month matured Christmas pudding will be in recyclable packaging                 and our new cherry and almond topped pudding comes in a reusable ceramic bowl.

Waitrose & Partners chocolate lolly trees on paper sticks

Plastic in our products

We’ve taken important steps to reduce packaging by almost 50% since 2009, by eliminating hard-to-recycle black plastic on fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables. We aim to identify solutions for all our packaging by 2020 and meet our target of all own-brand packaging being widely-recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2023.

In our own-brand product packaging, 70% is already widely recyclable. We aim to increase this to 80% by 2020 and 100% by 2023.

We no longer provide disposable coffee cups in our stores, have stopped selling packs of disposable plastic drinking straws and have switched our plastic stem cotton buds to paper. We were also the first supermarket to stop selling products containing microbeads in September 2016. But we want to go further. 

Here’s just some of the ways we’re reducing unnecessary packaging and plastics:


Compost-friendly trays

We introduced the world's first compostable ready-meal tray. It's made of tree pulp with a bio-laminate texture similar to cardboard. The fibre-based packaging is being used for our Italian ready meals, and can be recycled with waste paper. The tray also won Waitrose & Partners’ 2019 Sustainability award for its innovative design. It's 10% lighter, has a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions, saves 56 tonnes of black plastic annually and materials are sourced from Forest Stewardship Council certified areas.

Shop Italian ready meals >


More plastic canned 

We’re removing the plastic wrapping from multi-packed baked beans, tinned tomatoes and sweetcorn which will save 18 tonnes of plastic annually.

This is part of our plan to reduce single-use plastics across all our products that can't be recycled, and will cut down waste in our supply chain. Customers can still enjoy our multi-buy offer by adding four cans to their trolley, with the discount applied at checkout. 

Shop multibuy cans >



Recycle the rainbow 

We launched coloured packaging made from recycled plastic for our ready meals. The new containers, made from different coloured PET bottles and trays, sees dishes come in different coloured pink, red, green and blue packaging, depending on the recycled materials used. Our coloured trays, created by Faerch, will see even more meals taken out of hard-to-recycle black materials, saving a further 500 tonnes of plastic going to landfill. 

Find out more >


Carrier bags removed 

In 2019, we removed 5p single-use plastic carrier bags from all our stores. We’ve also replaced loose fruit and vegetable plastic bags with paper alternatives that can go in the home compost or be used as a food waste caddy liner. In addition, we’ve introduced a reusable bag for fruit and veg that customers can buy.
Estimates suggest this will save 71 million plastic bags
a year. 

Find out more >


Unpacking the way we shop

Unpacked started as a trial in June 2019 in our Oxford Botley Road store, to test how customers might be prepared to shop differently, with the aim of saving thousands of tonnes of plastic. The store has a dedicated refillable zone, including dispensers for dry goods, coffee, beer and wine refills, and a frozen ‘pick and mix’, as well as Ecover detergent and washing up liquid.

The positive response from customers means we’ve extended it to our Cheltenham store and plan to do the same in Waitrose & Partners Abingdon and Wallingford soon. 

Find out more >


Fine to flush 

We were the first UK supermarket to achieve ‘Fine to Flush’ certification for our own-label wet wipes. The plastic-free wipes were approved by WRc, the independent technical experts who developed the flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK. The wipes passed the necessary tests to prove they break down quickly and easily in the sewer system.

We continue to work towards ensuring the rest of our own label flushable wipes will meet the new 'Fine to Flush' certification. 

Shop flushable wipes >


Reusable containers

We encourage customers to bring their own clean, lidded reusable containers to our meat and fish counters to save plastic bags. Since 2017, we’ve reduced the number of bags provided on our counters by five million. 

Plastics in our supply chain

Plastics are used throughout supermarket supply chains. In 2018 we signed up to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, which aims to protect marine life and minimise plastic pollution from abandoned fishing equipment. We’re also working with the fishing industry to find solutions to lost and discarded fishing equipment. We regularly share our plans at supplier and farming conferences to encourage those attending to share ideas on ways to minimise the use of plastics in our supply chains.

Reaching beyond the supply chain

We want to do more than just tackle plastic use in our supply chains, products, stores and communities. That’s why we’re proud to have donated £500,000 to the Association of Commonwealth Universities to support academic fellowships which will drive solutions to plastic pollution around the world. We have also launched Plan Plastic – the Million Pound Challenge which provides grants of £150,000-£300,000 to projects that rethink how we all use and dispose of plastic now or in the future.