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Package-free supermarket shopping is about to become a part of daily life thanks to this trial

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Hollie Richardson
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Buying wine and pasta at Waitrose is about to become a whole lot greener

Customers with eco-anxiety can now buy eco-friendly wine, pasta and cleaning products at Waitrose, thanks to the success of its recent package-free shopping trial. 

Eco-anxiety is set to affect the future of how we buy and consume food in a variety of weird and wonderful ways, and we’re already starting to see some interesting changes. 

Sainsbury’s recently trialled the UK’s first meat-free butchers pop-up in London’s Bethnal Green, which will saw plant-based alternatives to sausages, burgers, mince and more. This came after a report suggested that it’s likely a quarter of all British people will be vegetarian in 2025 (up from one in eight Britons) and half of us could identify as flexitarian (up from a fifth). It’s no surprise, then, that the “alternative proteins” market is set to soar by as much as 25%.

We can expect to be buying lab-grown ‘meat’ kits which would be found in the ‘lab-grown’ aisle, and to be able to track the carbon footprint of any piece of fruit or vegetable we pick up in a store. This is promising news that shows how big supermarket chains are actually taking strong action.

And Sainsbury’s isn’t the only leading supermarket to take positive action in the fight against the climate crisis.

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Waitrose has reported an “overwhelming customer response” after trialling packaging-free refill stations for food, drinks and cleaning products in one of its stores. 

In an effort to cut down on packaging and wastage, the supermarket asked customers to bring in their own containers to fill up. This included four different wines and four types of beers, which were available on tap to take home in reusable bottles. The Oxford store sold 10 weeks’ worth of the beer it had made available on tap in just four days. 

The store also had standalone pick and mix range of frozen fruit and a borrow-a-box scheme to help carry shopping home. The trial saw packaging-free products sold at a price around 15% cheaper than with packaging. But overall sales there rose by 6% on average during the first six weeks of the trial.

The success of the trial means that it will now be rolled out across several other stores. Two other refillable zones will be introduced to two more Oxfordshire Waitrose stores this month, one in its Wallingford shop on 8 November, and the other in Abingdon on 22 November.

But, how much do these changes actually address the climate crisis?

Waitrose shopping
Waitrose package-free supermarket food shopping is taking off.

Waitrose is one of the 42 UK supermarkets that signed up to the UK Plastics Pact in 2018 – an industry-wide initiative to transform packaging and reduce avoidable plastic waste. However, these retailers have been criticised for not taking strong enough action to tackle the issue at an earlier stage.

“This is a genuinely bold step from Waitrose to trial food dispensers so customers can use refillable tubs and jars,” said Ariana Densham, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK. “Lots of supermarkets are starting to sell loose fruit and vegetables, but this kind of innovation could spark a refill culture that’s so desperately needed to cut plastics in mainstream shops.”

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She added: “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.”

Just be sure not to confuse your reusable coffee cup for your reusable wine bottle…

Images: Getty and Waitrose

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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