VERGE

Waitrose supermarket trials refillable, packaging-free products

Supermarket retailer Waitrose in the English town of Ashbourne.
Supermarket retailer Waitrose in the English town of Ashbourne.

Waitrose has transformed one of its stores as it seeks to trial a range of green innovations designed to slash waste levels and encourage customers to embrace more sustainable products.

Innovations debuted at the Botley Road supermarket in Oxford include a dedicated refillable zone designed to eradicate single-use packaging, which will offer refillable options for products such as wine, beer, cereals, coffee and cleaning products, a "borrow-a-box" scheme, and the United Kingdom's first frozen "pick and mix."

A number of retailers have trialed packaging-free aisles in recent months, but Waitrose's initiative is one of the largest pilot projects to date.

As part of the trial hundreds of products have been stripped of their plastic packaging, including flowers and indoor plants, while the store claims to boast the largest number of loose fruit and vegetable lines of any national supermarket. Packaged equivalents remain alongside the new offerings, in a bid to test whether customers go for packaged or unpackaged alternatives.

Branded "Waitrose Unpacked," the test will run for 11 weeks until Aug. 18. It will be promoted under #WaitroseUnpacked on Twitter and Instagram while a survey on the Waitrose website aims to gather feedback on the trial.

"We are determined to build on the work we've already done to reduce packaging — and this test will take our efforts to a whole new level as we help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way," said Tor Harris, Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners.

"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."

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