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UK Grocer Waitrose to Halve Packaging Waste by 2016

Words by Leon Kaye


Waitrose, the $8.4 billion United Kingdom grocer and often the grocer of choice for Britain’s royal family, is now tackling the amount of packaging the company uses for its food products. As part of the company’s new sustainability commitments, Waitrose has promised to reduce its packaging to half of its 2005 levels by 2016.

The company’s pledge is an ambitious one, considering the increased popularity of prepared foods amongst supermarket customers on both sides of the pond in recent years. Much of Waitrose’s commitments to reduced packaging relies on its lines of prepared meals and snacks. So how is the high end retailer tackling these waste diversion goals?

Lecturing consumers to buy from bulk bins or purchase fresh food is not going to inspire widespread change anytime soon. So for its prepared meals, Waitrose first snipped the size of the paper sleeves on the outside of the packages. The company claims that reduction alone will decrease its need for packaging by 33 tons. Waitrose also introduced lacquered aluminum trays consumers can use to both heat and serve such meals, and they are fully recyclable.

In its meat section, Waitrose will phase out plastic trays and replace them with a “flow wrap” packaging that requires less materials and also results in packs that are easier to carry while taking up less space in the refrigerator. Such a change will net Waitrose a 38-ton reduction in packaging alone. Other changes Waitrose plans to roll out include the elimination of paper labels in favor of pre-printed plastic bags as well as an increase in the size of the plastic window on sandwich containers--both of which together add up to a 36 ton reduction in paper consumption.

The slash in packaging use is among the company’s dozen “Waitrose Way Commitments.” Waitrose says it will invest in new clean energy technologies, move towards only sustainably sourced fish and commit to the purchase of more local products throughout the UK for its stores.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit: Waitrose]

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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