UK supermarket tests packaging-free grocery shopping to reduce plastic waste

One of the largest most popular supermarket chains in the United Kingdom is running a trial to test the viability and sustainability of grocery shopping that is free of wasteful plastic packaging, a move that could start a new green movement.

Single-use plastics are a major problem in our world, and plastic packaging is one of the main culprits because it’s used only once to wrap a product and then thrown away by the consumer. The plastic wrapper then ends up in a landfill or in the ocean where it threatens wildlife.

In an effort to reduce that waste and the consequences it causes, Waitrose supermarket has introduced a trial run to sell more products without such packaging.

“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,” Greenpeace UK’s Ariana Densham.

Shoppers can now walk in the store and fill up their own containers with rice, pastas and other products from a dispensary allowing them to buy the amount they need, which could cut back on food waste as well.

It’s similar to how some candy stores operate.

But Waitrose is also putting out more fruits and vegetables without plastic packaging and shoppers can even rent a box for 5 pence to bring their groceries home and then return the box to get their money back. This way, another person can use the box, and the store reduces waste of paper and plastic bags while saving money.

And shoppers save money too because the cost of plastic packaging is gone and they can choose how much they will pay for a product based on how much they put in a container.

It’s a brilliant idea all the way around, and could be the way people go grocery shopping in the future.

Waitrose head of corporate social responsibility Tor Harris told the BBC that the chain wanted to “help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way.”

“This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for,” Harris said.

Indeed, and it couldn’t come at a better time because single-use plastics have become pervasive in the environment. We need to cut back on the amount of plastic waste we produce, and retailers and grocery chains are the ideal place to start because if people are not offered products in plastic packaging, there won’t be any plastic packaging to throw away.

Waitrose is not only offering shoppers a way to reduce their own carbon footprint, it’s offering them a cheaper shopping experience and a more efficient one where shoppers have a choice about how much of a product they want to purchase. It’s the best scenario one could hope for right now, and let’s hope other supermarket chains follow suit.

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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