Waitrose ranked first for efforts to reduce plastics in Greenpeace report as it confirms latest plans for refillables test

Waitrose has topped the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) and Greenpeace table of UK supermarkets for efforts to reduce plastics across its shops and products for the second year in a row.

The report acknowledges that Waitrose reported an absolute plastic reduction of 6.1% since 2017 across both its own-brand and branded ranges – the lowest plastic use per unit market share of the supermarkets, while also highlighting its refillable pilot scheme.  

Waitrose pioneered the launch of its refillable range in some of its shops in 2019 with ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ to test demand from consumers for packaging free shopping. 

Today it takes the concept one step further by becoming the first national supermarket to integrate unpacked items into its regular aisles within its shop in Wallingford Oxfordshire, rather than having a single unpacked fixture. Following the addition of 13 Unpacked options in December, the store will offer 51 lines, including frozen fruit, store cupboard essentials such as rice, pasta and grains, cereals, dried fruit, snacking and coffee, as well as washing detergent. 

This trial aims to understand whether customers could be persuaded to incorporate shopping for unpacked items into their routine ‘business as usual’ shopping trips, rather than visiting a separate part of the shop.

In addition to confirming plans to add more refillable products to the range later this year, it underlines Waitrose’s ambition to explore the potential to scale-up Unpacked in the future. 

When Unpacked launched in Waitrose Botley Road shop in Oxford in summer 2019 it was originally intended to be an eleven week test, but following its success it has continued there and was added to a further three shops, including Wallingford, Abingdon and Cheltenham.  

The announcement comes on the back of a report published by Waitrose today showing that customers were overwhelmingly supportive of the unpacked initiative and that nearly all single-use packaging was eliminated across Unpacked products.  

The report shows that in the initial eleven weeks at Botley Road found that 98% of single-use packaging was eliminated across Unpacked products and that all plastic packaging was reduced by 83%. A survey as part of the report found that 80% of customers said they would shop Unpacked again and that as the test went on increasing number customers were remembering to bring their own containers – nearly of customers after just ten weeks. Feedback suggested customers want to see a broader range of Unpacked products, including more brands, and that Unpacked also helped them do their bit for the environment and feel better about their purchases. 

The Unpacked initiative helped Waitrose rank first in Greenpeace’s annual league table which was unveiled today (26 January) and looks at how supermarkets are reducing use of single-use plastics.  
 
James Bailey, Waitrose Executive Director, said: “We are pleased that Greenpeace’s league table has recognised our efforts to decrease our plastic packaging and pioneer unpacked shopping, but we realise there’s more to do. We know this remains as important to our customers as it does to us so we have continued to explore ways we can do more. 

“Waitrose Unpacked requires a fundamental change in shopping behaviour that has been ingrained for years. This next phase will help us to understand if we can make refillables a routine part of customers’ shopping trips that would allow us to roll out Unpacked further in the future.”

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