Waitrose to re­move plas­tic bags for loose fruit and veg next year

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Ha­roon Siddique

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.

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