Waitrose wants to see how serious shoppers are about bringing their own containers.
Waitrose is listening to its customers. In response to people wanting to shop in "a more sustainable way", the British supermarket chain has launched an 11-week trial called Waitrose Unpacked, which offers a broad range of package-free products that people can put in their own refillable containers.
The Unpacked trial features an impressive list of products, including 160 loose fruits and vegetables, a 'pick and mix' bar of frozen fruits (strawberries, mango, blueberries, cherries, pineapple, raspberries), plastic-free flowers and plants, refillable dish and dishwasher detergents, wine and beer refills, coffee bean refills (whole and ground), and 28 pantry basics available from dispensers (pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit, seeds, etc).Additionally, the store is offering a scheme called 'borrow a box.' The name is self-explanatory: for a £5 deposit, shoppers can borrow a box to take their food home, then get refunded once it's returned.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of using less plastic packaging, the Unpacked foods are also cheaper – a reminder that we often pay for excessive packaging in addition to a product. The BBC reports that "produce in Waitrose's unpacked refill stations will be up to 15 percent cheaper" and that the frozen fruit mix's price "at 50p per 100g would be cheaper per 100g than the packaged equivalent."
The stores will continue to offer regularly-packaged food items in their normal locations, so as to provide a comparison. From a press release:
"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. We know we're not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different."
The fact that Waitrose is doing so much is hopeful and exciting. The trial ends August 18, so if you're in the UK, please get out there and show your support for package-free products.