Plastic Free Supermarket? Waitrose Is Leading The Way

Kathryn Manktelow

Is Waitrose the future of the plastic free supermarket?

Waitrose to many seem like an ethical & morally correct supermarket when it comes to the environment. Therefore it should come as no surprise that they are the leaders in the UK supermarket sector with regards to going plastic free.

This Waitrose case study looks at their journey to reducing plastic. It started in 2009 & and since then they have cut their packaging by nearly 50%. It was in their company plan long before the recent surge in plastic issue awareness.

If you want to work out how your food packaging and production process could rely on less plastics or use environmentally friendly food packaging, then book a Plastic Free Consultation with Chapelton.



plastic free


In 2016 it was the first supermarket to stop selling items with microbeads in. Microbeads can be deadly, they absorb toxins such as pesticides and motor oil, a single microbead can be 100 million times more toxic than the water around it.

These toxic beads make there way into the food chain as they are ingested by marine life & can even end up on our plate. Around the same time they switched all of their own brand cotton buds from plastic to paper.

Just like the microbeads plastic cotton buds absorb toxins, they also cause problems due to their size and shape when ingested. Once in the stomach of marine life, they very rarely leave causing toxins to build up and internal digestive issues.



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During 2017 they made a few changes that not only cut plastic down but made items easier and more effectively recycled.

The plastic used in sandwich packaging traditionally was not made to be removed and makes recycling the sandwich boxes impossible. The plastic is more often than not non-recyclable and leaves the boxes with only 1 place to go; landfill.

Their sandwich boxes were redesigned to ensure the cardboard could detach more easily from the plastic film, therefore making it easier to recycle.

Waitrose then introduced a trial run of naturally formed produce packaging. The new trays which house their Duchy Originals tomatoes are made from recycled paper pulp & tomato leaves. If successful and rolled out nationwide it would save 3.5 million plastic trays per year.



September 2018 Waitrose announced they will no longer sell single use plastic drinking straws, considering 8.5 billion straws are thrown away each year in the UK this step can be nothing but a positive move. Straws are not a necessity and we could very easily live without them. Of course there are many new alternative options such as metal & paper. I am sure Waitrose will be offering sustainable options.

plastic free supermarket

Autumn 2018 was the deadline Waitrose set themselves to remove all disposable coffee cups from their stores, saving around 52 million non-recyclable items per year. There are only a few specialist recycling plants in the UK with the capability to recycle these cups, therefore 99.75% of all coffee cups are not recycled. With 2.5 billions cups being thrown away each year, the non-recycled number is absurd.

plastic free supermarket


They have pledged not to sell any own label food in black plastic beyond 2019 and are committed to making all own label packaging widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025.

Waitrose announced to their “my Waitrose” customers on the 15th September 2018 that as of March 2019 they will no longer supply 5p plastic carrier bags in their stores, they also plan in the same time frame to replace all loose fruit & vegetable bags with a home compostable alternative.

By doing this Waitrose set to save 134 million bags from circulation, which equates to around 500 tonnes of plastic.


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The future of plastic free supermarkets

Now plastic has become such a heightened discussion I imagine many supermarkets will follow suit very soon if they aren’t already doing so. Consumers are now more conscious of what they buy and how its packaged than they ever have been. All sectors are under pressure to make changes and search for more environmentally friendly materials.

The plastic free revolution is here to stay and Waitrose are well on their way to be the first plastic free supermarket.

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