Plastics and packaging

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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:

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Compost-friendly trays

We introduced the world's first home-compostable ready-meal tray for our Italian ready meals. It's fibre-based and made of tree pulp with a bio-laminate texture similar to cardboard, so if it cannot be composted, it can be recycled alongside paper. The supplier of the tray won the Waitrose 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 >

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More plastic canned 

We've removed the plastic wrapping from multi-packs of Essential baked beans, tinned tomatoes and sweetcorn to save 18 tonnes of plastic a year.

This is part of our plan to reduce single-use plastics across products that can't be recycled, which 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 >

 

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Recycle the rainbow 

We have replaced hard-to-recycle black plastic ready meal trays to coloured ones made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate bottles. The colour varies between pink, red, green and blue, depending on the materials used. The trays are made by a packaging solutions company called Faerch UK, and introducing them saves 500 tonnes of plastic going to landfill.
 

Find out more >

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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 an alternative made from corn starch that can be home composted or used as a food waste caddy liner. We’ve introduced a reusable bag for life to use for fresh produce. Estimates suggest this will save 71 million plastic bags a year. 

Find out more >

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Unpacking the way we shop

Unpacked started as a trial in June 2019 in our Botley Road store in Oxford, 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 extended it to our shops in Cheltenham, and Abingdon and Wallingford, both in Oxfordshire.

Find out more >

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Fine to flush 

We were the first UK supermarket to achieve Fine to Flush certification for our own-label Moist Toilet Tissue Wipes. The plastic-free wipes were approved by WRc, the independent technical experts who developed the 'flushability' standards with Water UK to make sure certified wipes break down quickly and easily in the sewer system.

Shop flushable wipes >

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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 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 >