Waitrose to remove plastic bags for loose fruit and veg next year
Waitrose is to remove traditional plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables from its stores by spring 2019 and 5p single use plastic bags by March next year.
The supermarket said the move will save 134m plastic bags, the equivalent of 500 tonnes of plastic a year, and make it the first nationwide chain to remove them from the fruit and vegetable aisles.
The fruit and vegetable bags will be replaced by a home compostable alternative, derived from corn starch, which the retailer said will look and feel similar to the current ones. It said they could be placed in food waste caddies or broken down in landfill if put in a normal bin.
Friends of the Earth welcomed the fact that the store is seeking to reduce its plastic footprint but doubted that compostable bags were the answer. Emma Priestland, plastics campaigner at the environmental group, said: “It’s good to see big companies like Waitrose looking for ways to reduce the plastic in their stores.
“But compostable, bio-based bags aren’t necessarily the gold-star solution they first appear. This is a case of swapping one kind of singleuse plastic for another, when actually removing the packaging entirely would be the best option. To turn the tide on plastic pollution, we need to get rid of all but the most essential plastics, and we need action from government to make that happen.”
The group’s concerns echo those of the UN’s top environmental scientist, Jacqueline McGlade, who said earlier this year that biodegradable plastic bags were a false solution.
The 5p bags will be removed from six shops from 8 October to help ensure a smooth changeover before Waitrose begins to phase them out elsewhere later in the year.
Earlier this year, the retailer announced that it would be removing all takeaway disposable coffee cups from its shops by autumn 2018. It has already completely removed the cups from more than 300 of its 348 stores.
Waitrose and Partners has also already pledged not to sell any ownlabel food in black plastic beyond 2019 and to make all of its own-label packaging widely recyclable, reusable, or home compostable by 2025.
The supermarket’s latest announcement comes amid mounting evidence that environmental concerns around plastic waste are moving up the priority list for shoppers.
The government is exploring extending the 5p plastic bag charge.
Tor Harris, the head of corporate social responsibility, health and agriculture for the supermarket, said: “We know we still have a lot to do, but … this represents another major step forward in reducing our use of plastics.”
Earlier this week the Guardian reported that the No 1 issue for British shoppers in the next decade will be to reduce packaging and use more recyclable materials.
The public puts environmental considerations around plastic above the price of goods when shopping.
Research by ThoughtWorks found that 62% of the 2,000 people surveyed were concerned with the need to reduce plastic packaging and use materials that were recyclable, while 57% said price would be a main driver for their purchases in the next 10 years.