Plastics and packaging
Removing unnecessary plastics is a priority for us and something we know is 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.
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. We reduced our packaging by almost 45% between 2009 and 2016. Since then we have reset our baseline using 2018 data and in 2019 we reduced all packaging by 2.6% and plastic packaging by 4% despite an increase in sales. Where packaging is still necessary, we’ve already made sure that 86% of our own-brand packaging meets our recyclable, reusable or home-compostable goal. But we know there’s more we need to do, and that’s why we've brought our target forward two years, to 2023.
"Making sure our packaging works and is fit for purpose is just part of my job," says Karen Graley, Waitrose's packaging manager.
"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 manufacturers to look at packaging alternatives."
What we're doing about plastic in own-brand packaging
We no longer provide disposable coffee cups in our shops. We've stopped selling packs of disposable plastic drinking straws and have switched our plastic stem cotton buds to paper. We were the first supermarket to ban the sale of products containing microbeads, in September 2016.
Here’s what else we are doing:
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 these bags by five million.
Plastics in our supply chain
In 2008, 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 a use for lost and discarded fishing equipment. We regularly share our plans at supplier and farming conferences to encourage others to do the same.
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 to lead research and find, test and share effective solutions to plastic pollution across the world. We have also launched Plan Plastic – the Million Pound Challenge, which provides grants of up to £300,000 to projects that rethink how we all use and dispose of plastic now or in the future.
Still looking for more ways to do your bit for the environment? See our top tips for reducing food waste at home >