/ Shopping, Sustainability

Waitrose plastic-free shopping: your views

Waitrose is trialling allowing customers to bring their own refillable containers for fruit and veg, pasta, cereals, coffee and wine. Do you back its initiative?

Waitrose’s Oxford supermarket kicked off its ‘Unpacked’ trial last Monday – it’s hoped that the idea could save thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging.

Since I moved into my own place last year I’ve been far more conscious of the amount of packaging a household consumes.

Every time the shower gel runs out or we go through another bottle of a soft drink it’s another plastic bottle into the pile, so I personally feel this is a positive step in the right direction from Waitrose.

I was also delighted to see the Which? team head to the Waitrose store in Oxford to try it out!

Is packaging-free food budget-friendly? Read how the team got on here.

Perhaps the rows of refill stations are a glimpse at what the supermarkets of the future may look like as brands seek to get more sustainable with their packaging choices?

Do you support ‘buying loose’?

We’ve had discussions here on Which? Conversation before about packaging, specifically last April on how we can rethink the way or products are distributed and sold.

That topic spawned a number of contributions with ideas and concerns, with many of you calling on supermarkets and other shops to reduce their packaging:

Other supermarkets, including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco, are also getting in on the plastic-cutting act, with many of them signed up to the Plastics Pact.

But with Waitrose being the first to take the packaging-free/refills route, it’s keen to hear and review feedback when the test ends in August.

We’re hoping it’s not all just a publicity stunt – initiatives like this could have a big impact if they’re rolled out to other stores and chains. But what do you think?

Would you bring your own refillable containers along on your shop? Should this idea be rolled out across the country? What other ways could supermarkets reduce packaging?

Comments

@gmartin, thanks for the “featured comment”, George :-).
I also said something in another related Convo (https://conversation.which.co.uk/food-drink/supermarket-grocery-packaging-recycle-choices/#) “If we are to address plastics and supermarket packaging we, I believe, need to begin at the beginning and aim to:
–eliminate all unnecessary packaging. Sell appropriate goods loose to go straight into your (reusable) shopping bag or into permanent containers you take with you.
– reduce essential packaging to a minimum

So I’m all in favour of the Waitrose initiative and hope it will not only remain, but will be copied by other food retailers. I hope Which? will find a way to support this; a Campaign?

Food packaging is something we are going to continue to highlight – maybe not a campaign yet, probably more encouraging people to exercise their consumer power to make more sustainable choices.

I think I mentioned before that we have just done an investigation and there will be a lot of work to highlight the results to put pressure on the supermarkets.

Although I am sure there are some actions we can ask people to do off the back of it. If you were to take local action what would work for you?

The idea is great in principle, but can Waitrose assure us that good hygiene standards are maintained throughout the handling process.

I already take my own containers to buy loose pulses from a local deli. They cost more but I do try to support local businesses if I can. The owners work in their own store with a visible washbasin I see them use frequently, so I feel I can trust their hygiene, but what about Waitrose and other supermarkets? Having a delicate tum, it is something I have to be very careful of these days.

It would be good if Waitrose could tell us their procedures and how the products are handled.

I agree that the hygiene aspects need proper consideration but we should not let such concerns, which can be overcome, stand in the way of such progress in reducing plastic waste.

Nevertheless, we do need to ensure that customers conduct themselves properly where loose produce is being decanted, that waste and overspills are dealt with safely, and that measures are put in place for customers to sanitise their hands before entering the specific area. Having seen people in hotels collect their breakfast comestibles from the buffet does indicate that hygiene education falls short of the necessary standard and that people are not averse to using their hands when implements are available or coughing and sneezing in the presence of open food. Good design will be the key.

Controversially, I suggest there will be a pecking order of the shops in which I would feel safe with such arrangements and Waitrose would, in my opinion, give me the greatest confidence. In some other shops I am glad that everything is fully wrapped and sealed, and that’s not because of any shortcomings of the retailer but owing to the nature of the customers they attract.

There is plenty of food that is already open to customers – fruit, vegetables, bakery, delicatessen, meat, fish so I don’t really see what Waitrose are doing as of any greater concern.

…and we can be certain that however poor their hygiene protocols are, they won’t come near to any restaurant’s.

I used to think I had a cast-iron stomach and didn’t even consider food hygiene. But then I got ill and my relationship with food changed.

I have been ill several times after eating foods that I didn’t use to think twice about. A couple of years ago I was sick after eating papaya. I don’t know if there was a link but at the time I found articles like this: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40874238.

One article that I can’t find now, suggested the skin was was contaminated with human faeces. You sometimes see veg harvesting from huge fields and I do sometimes wonder where are the loos and hand washing facilities? You do hear of workers just going in the fields.

Malcolm said there is plenty of food that is already open to customers. This is very true and got me thinking how subconsciously, I am much more careful selecting loose food these days especially if it is going to be eaten raw.

I must admit I am not happy about the open display of bread, rolls, and other bakery products in M&S. People just will not use the tongs provided and pick over the scones and cheese straws, etc. I know it is all supposed to look very rustic – nay, ‘artisanal’ in the current vernacular – but I would prefer the staff to serve us with the items we want as they do in Greggs for example.

Fruit tends to get washed or peeled and vegetables are usually cooked so the risks of contamination are reduced.

It would be useful if the Which? team who rushed over to Oxford to watch this trial in action would produce an illustrated description of the arrangements so we can see more clearly how they operate. I am interested to know how the weight or volume and pricing are dealt with given that customers are using their own containers.

I’ve asked for more information from Vicki, who did the research. She is also the lead researcher on the packaging investigation in next month’s magazine so knows more than you could imagine on packaging!

Anyone out in or near Oxford fancy trying out Waitrose’s trial? We’d love for you to share your experiences here on Convo, so if you’re in or near the area and want to share your thoughts, leave us a comment or give us a shout via the contact form: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/.

I’d be keen to hear how this trial might be done at scale. There’s a few packaging free shops around London now, however they’re not large, and not likely to be able to be combined with the rest of one’s weekly shop.

Jon, can you use “Connect”, “Weekly Scoop, “The Insider” to get this request to far more people than will see it in a Convo?

Hi all,

Vicki the writer who did this research here!

Here is how it works in difference areas of the store:
Fruit & veg: much like a greengrocers everything is loose or in cardboard boxes for you to weigh yourself with scales

Dried goods (including pasta, coffee, lentils): you take your container to the scales, tell the scales that you are using your own container. The scales weigh your container and print a label with a barcode for you to stick to your container. Then you fill the containers from the lever operated hoppers (except dried and frozen fruit where you use a scoop like confectionery pick’n’mix). There is a risk here of spilling your items but the Waitrose staff were quick to clean up when anything did spill. Then you take your container back to the scales tell it you have a container with produce inside. It then asks you to scan the barcode and it takes the weight of your container away from the total weight so it can calculate the price.

If you do not wish to use your own container there are paper bags. I think the hygiene issues here would arise from not cleaning your own container properly – which is really your own prerogative. You can’t really touch the items until they are in your container so I don’t think that is an issue, especially if like me you are a hand sanitiser carrier.

Beer and wine: you can only use the bottles provided by Waitrose which you pay a deposit for when you first buy the wine or beer. Then you clean them and bring them back for next time. The taps are only operated by Waitrose staff. Again the hygiene issues would come from you not cleaning your bottles properly.

There is also a counter manned by chefs to prepare vegetables for you (e.g. spiralise, julienne, etc.) At the moment they are only doing this for vegetables that you will cook. Which I think is more hygienic (and much cheaper) than buying prepared vegetables.

There is a bit more detail in the article here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/06/waitrose-unpacked-is-packaging-free-food-budget-friendly/

Hi Vicki – thank you for all the detail.

That is really cool that they will prep veg in store – I would never be out of the place if I lived nearby!

We’re returning in part to the old days when you were served in shops. I liked that – like having your car filled with fuel (no need to get smelly hands from diesel). Perhaps we can avoid pre-packed items this way in the diy sheds?

Thanks for the information, Vicki. I do hope that other supermarkets follow the example set by Waitrose.

Thanks very much for the information, Vicki. I hope the trial survives and is extended to other stores.

Most of the big four supermarkets have excess retail space so could easily accommodate arrangements like this but the smaller stores might have to stay as they are.

It will be interesting to see how this works at the busy times and what impact, if any, it has on prices.

Richard F says:
15 June 2019

Regarding the use of the ‘hygiene’ tongs; I have often found these tongs laying on top of the produce. This cannot be hygienic if everybody is handling these tongs. I refuse to use them; why would I want to touch them if everybody else has. I take a moment to decide what item I want, then take that item carefully with my fingers, not touching any other.

It’s good to see that Waitrose is tackling this problem, especially since they have use more packaging than necessary for years.

The photo in George’s introduction shows dispensers for dry goods. That’s a good place to start because there is little chance of microbial contamination, and if the products are spilt it is easy to clean up the mess.

In my youth, I worked in a few food places, and spilt food was often put back into a container for use. Modern hygiene regulations might ban these things from happening, but you don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.

It’s interesting to speak with those who have experience behind the scenes in premises handling food. 🙁 I was still in my teens when a shop assistant grasped the head of a sweeping brush to refit it to the handle and then proceeded to serve me with cheese or cooked meat. I gave them a lecture about hygiene and walked out. One of the benefits of supermarkets is that we have people trained to handle food.

*dry heave*

Not many things turn my stomach but that story did. Hygiene on those counters does seem to have improved over the years – thankfully!

In my school holidays I worked in a cake factory where flour was swept up and used after a flour fight. I have seen food in restaurant kitchens put back on plates after falling on the floor. Then there are those that don’t wash their hands after using the toilet.

Many people buy from markets where most of the food is uncovered – fish, meat, bread, cheese, veg and fruit, meat pies…… After a day in the open the unsold food – fish seems the worst – may well reappear at the next venue. Fast food vans abound, particularly at events. Prepacked food like sandwiches rely on the conditions in the factory and personal hygeine. Traditional shops like bakeries expose their food. So I’d suggest we are exposed to far greater potential hazards than are likely to exist in Waitrose (and partners).

Minimising packaging is a must. Perhaps we’ll see the return of more fresh food counters where you can buy just the amount you want – 2oz of back bacon, 2 sausages and a tomato.

For me this is such an important aspect to it – most of the food waste (and if I am being honest overeating) in my house is because packs of food don’t serve 2 and a half people most of the time.

I agree with Malcolm but it seems that the general level of immunity and resistance to infection is lower these days. The recent listeria outbreaks in packaged sandwiches demonstrate that great care must be taken with the food served to vulnerable people.

Avoiding food waste while providing a varied diet for a small household is a challenge and more creative ways need to be explored in order to achieve it.

Most big towns used to have large indoor fresh produce markets, as still found all over the continent, but we seem to have frittered away on social media the time needed to shop that way.

The renowned open market in Norwich city centre has many food stalls selling produce in the quantities required but, apart from fruit and veg, the food is protected from handling by customers before purchase.

I am so torn with Waitrose Unpacked. On one hand I think it is a fantastic step forward in reducing plastics and unnecessary packaging, on the other hand my now delicate constitution is filled with dread.

It is new, Waitrose staff will be well-trained so hygiene is unlikely to be a problem during the trial. But when other supermarkets join in manned by less-trained weekend students, that will become a worry. Saturday staff on the deli counter of our local Sainsbury’s faff about not knowing what they are doing half the time.

In days past, yes more food was out in the open and bought loose. But then it probably hadn’t travelled half way around the world or passed through multiple hands. Most of it originated locally, was fresher, was handled less, so less opportunity to become contaminated.

Ha, ha, maybe a step too far?

That picture was actually of a farmer who took a couple of his cows into Asda as a protest against falling prices.
https://www.fwi.co.uk/business/markets-and-trends/milk-prices/cows-supermarket-stunt-carefully-planned-farmer-says

Gastric acid is one of our defences against food poisoning, yet long-term prescription of acid-suppressant drugs, particularly proton pump inhibitors, is widespread. The risk has been known for years but not fully appreciated.

Thanks for the background, Alfa. Perhaps we could have two teats for semi-skimmed milk and the udder two for skimmed and full-cream milk. Bring a bottle.

Very true wavechange. I was given them but only took them for a few weeks as they didn’t do anything for me. Not the right place to discuss this but hubby was on them for years but after talking to the GP is now off them and now just takes Gaviscon when necessary.

Will take this to the lobby.

If you have any concerns about the food safety then don’t use the service, buy prepackaged goods (in the hope that has been safely managed, of course 🙁 )

I have noticed white containers being used for ready meals instead of the black that couldn’t be detected by recycling sorters – a step in the right direction.

We only have about a carrier bag of rubbish every fortnight that cannot be recycled. It is mostly made up of Tetra Pak pull seals, dirty kitchen roll but mostly thin plastic film including cling film. I believe it can be recycled in some areas but not ours as far as I know.

We now use a lot less cling film but it still has its uses. I do wish it also came in a half-width size.

There is an expression less is more, but when it comes to food packaging, I wonder if more could be less?

If a container is 100% recyclable, does it matter if the product uses more plastic?

I haven’t bought any for a while but Tesco Finest ready meals came with a lid that we put in the recycling bin instead of the usual film that went into non-recycling. As I said, it was a while ago and I can’t remember if the packaging stated the lid was recyclable or we made an incorrect assumption.

But the point is, 100% of the packaging went into the recycling bin instead of around 80% of most packaging.

Recyclable plastics cannot usually be made into the same sort of product because of the molecules become smaller and there is likely to be some contamination – both of which reduce the quality of the plastic. It’s easier to recycle virgin plastic, such as offcuts and packaging that has not been reused.

Hmm… I just found this:
Plastic food pots and trays are often unrecyclable say councils
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45058971

So much for doing ‘the right thing’.

Ocado recycle their carrier bags into new carrier bags (and those from other retailers) but I have never found out exactly how they do it and if it is really 100% recycling. Their recycling programme is carried out in the UK rather than China where the bulk of plastics are currently recycled reducing carbon emissions.
https://www.ocadogroup.com/our-responsibilities/environment.aspx

They give you 5p for every carrier bag returned. I have asked them several times if other plastics such as food bags and bubble wrap could be included and donated for free as they appear to be the same type of plastic. I have been told my suggestion would be passed on, but have never heard anything more.

Most food trays could be aluminium – initially perhaps a little more expensive but totally recyclable. Bottles could be glass. We can renew the energy used to recycle such materials. We cannot clean up plastic contamination.

We must accept some cost in moving away from plastic packaging where packaging is necessary or sensible for product protection and life, where it reduces food waste.

I have a Waitrose moussaka in the freezer. The tray is aluminium, but the lid is still thin plastic film.

This is excellent, veg in cardboard containers instead of plastic.

Not sure about these types of lids though:

They can be a bit fiddly and the metal can rust. It is a while since I used these tops, but are they suitable for people with arthritic fingers?

“are they suitable for people with arthritic fingers?“. Try lids on jars, the film top on polythene milk bottles…….
I presume these seal better for transport than screw tops.

I have noticed that Marks & Spencer have replaced the black containers on a number of food lines with alternative colours, and they have also removed the thin polythene bags in the banana department and now provide paper bags with a transparent starch-based panel for checkout visibility. Good moves and hopefully just the start.

The BBC article referenced by Alfa keeps referring to black plastic food containers as being unrecyclable. I am not sure that is correct – I believe they are recyclable but they are difficult to separate mechanically or electronically in the waste stream so they go in the discard channel with other ‘contaminants’. It might be more expensive but I am sure the human eye could manage it, although obviously it would be better to move away from black plastic altogether even though it is possibly cheaper to produce [from a multitude of sources] than specific coloured plastics.

Interesting, someone doesn’t think the fully recyclable cardboard containers are a good idea. They were mentioned in a BBC article ‘Oxford Waitrose Unpacked campaign: Shoppers give verdict’.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-48517126

I think the cardboard vegetable packaging is a good idea and have marked it accordingly.

Anton King says:
29 June 2019

Re narrow clingfilm.A product called Physiowrap is used for covering wounds and is available in narrower widths that catering clingfilm.It can also be attached to a roller handle.

This has actually sent me walk down memory lane. In Belfast in the 80’s there were a few shops called (I think) The Scoop Shop. The dried food was in big barrels and you scooped out what you needed. I remember the excitement of *finally* getting to use the scoop when I got old enough to be trusted.

We were so ahead of the times! 😉

I believe Barmouth still has such a shop, called Weigh Out. It was definitely still there two years ago. I also remember there being one in Northwich, called Two Weight Savings.

dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/how-tiny-weigh-out-weighed-2889760

There was also one in Lowestoft and it might still be there. It was referred to in a previous Which? Conversation a few years ago but I cannot easily trace it.

A little action everyone can take. Waitrose are looking for feedback on the trail and you don’t need to have gone to the store to take part.

https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/shop/featured/groceries/unpacked

Ready-meals seem to be responsible for a great deal of packaging, and buying ingredients can reduce the amount of waste.

A polypropylene container of ‘fresh’ soup or sauce weighs 35-38g, which is a lot of plastic. I have a stack of them that are reused to freeze my own soup, and have found they can be used repeatedly. When cooking I often cook more than I need and freeze one or two portions in reusable containers.

Ready meals are invaluable to many people, have improved greatly in quality and often offer good value. The container they are in could be aluminium rather than plastic; OK if oven cooked but it would need transferring to a different material if destined for the microwave. The aluminium is totally recyclable; just a film cover to discard. The usual card wrap with ingredients and instructions – plus a tempting picture – could be dispensed with and the information placed on the cover.

I’ve just enjoyed a venison casserole that had been in my freezer. If I’m not mistaken, the venison came from Waitrose. I enjoy cooking for myself and it contributes to reduction in waste.

Cooking meals economically relies on being able to buy just the right quantity of each ingredient. Selling food loose will help that.

I prefer to buy larger quantities, providing I know that they will not be wasted. It’s cheaper, particularly when products are on offer.

Do you know if reusing the plastic containers has a slight risk of mercury migration, Wave? I seem to remember reading about that risk many years ago.

Found it:

“Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are pushing for increased use of recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Packaging materials made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate are used for direct food contact in recycled rigid containers and films. Most recycled polyethylene terephthalate packaging materials contain heavy metal catalysts, the most common being antimony. The recycling process has the potential to increase degradation products, chemical additives and polymerization side-products. Recent studies using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry confirmed the presence of cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel and antimony in food packaging.”

From:
Migration of heavy metals from recycled polyethylene terephthalate during storage and microwave heating

Michael Whitt, Wyatt Brown, Jeffrey E Danes, …
First Published June 15, 2015

Plastics are not the inert materials we would like them to be, Ian. A simple illustration is the way that they can become discoloured. For example heating tomato sauce or soup in a plastic container can stain it. In the same way that certain materials can enter the plastic, others can leach out of it over time, accelerated by heating. An example is loss of plasticisers, most obvious as ‘new car smell’.

The European Food Safety Authority dictates what materials are permissible in direct or indirect contact with food and drink: https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/chemical_safety/food_contact_materials_en

We are often told that plastics used in the food industry can be recycled, but the recycler has no idea what plastics have been used for prior to recycling. It’s likely that some of what goes in the recycling bin is plastics that not intended for food use and thus contain chemicals that would not be permitted for contact with food. Metal contamination of plastics (including that from catalysts) should be easy to quantify, but without independent testing, I would not be happy for recycled plastics being used in contact with foods.

Incidentally, the use of aluminium in food trays does concern me because these are unprotected, unlike cans that are lacquered internally. The rate that aluminium dissolves depends on pH and temperature. I’m not keen on heating food in plastic or aluminium containers, but it can be transferred to glass or ceramic ones. EFSA has commented on aluminium, but there is a lot we do not know. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/080715-0

I don’t know about current use of mercury in commercial products. Until the ban in the 1990s, calomel dust was freely available for use in agriculture and the home garden. Organomercury compounds in fish oils are one of the reasons we are advised not to consume too much oily fish.

We’ve used aluminium cooking pans for years and years and while there might be some ingestion it has not. so far, been demonstrated as significantly harmful as far as I know. Many food contain aluminium so we cannot separate ourselves from it, nor many other trace elements.

I’d rather see us use aluminium as food containers (its surface can be anodised to protect it if necessary) than continue to chuck away loads of plastic.

Does this Waitrose new initiative include loose tea with an option to purchase separate tea bags with strings attached (authentic), to replace the plastic seals still in use by some suppliers.

https://www.countryliving.com – Even our teabags contain plastic – so these are the brands you should be using.

Loose tea and a tea strainer works well. No strings attached.

Loose tea makes a far better cuppa.
You don’t need a strainer with many tea pots:

I agree loose tea is best and probably more economical if made in a teapot where the stains caused by tannic acid remain instead of in a teacup/mug. It occurred to me that online food shoppers may not be able to take advantage of this new initiative as it would be impossible to pick and choose without the need for packaging.

Malcolm would it be possible to insert a strainer inside a teapot, similar to those inside the spout of a kettle?

Loose tea is ideally suited for dispensing into your own container.

Online food shopping is probably the greatest challenges and I wonder what the supermarkets have in mind.

Beryl, I see no reason why not but suspect it would get blocked by leaves very quickly when pouring.

Tea used to be provided in paper packets, as was coffee. It could still, although it would have a shorter shelf life until opened. I keep both in sealed tins. It is not a problem as it gets used up quite quickly.

The use of personal containers is only one issue. Minimising packaging and using more appropriate materials for what is essential is the main issue, in my book. That would not affect on-line shopping.

Amazon advertise a universal removable stainless steel strainer to pop inside the spout of a teapot but unfortunately it’s currently unavailable.

I agree tea is not so much a problem where plastics are concerned but fruit and veg may be for online shopping. I never buy ready meals but for those that do it could pose a .problem unless, as you say, more appropriate materials are used.

I presume that most of the goods offered in the Waitrose trial (apart from the beer and wine) could be sold in paper bags that can be recycled. I do hope that customers don’t decide to bring a roll of plastic food bags when they go shopping. 🙁

What I find irritating is that Supermarkets can do more about the recyclability of their own packaging, melinex film type plastics are no more recyclable than polystyrene, but the bigger concern is with packaging produced outside of the UK, the notice ‘consult your local recycling centre’ means that the packaging will end up in land-fill black bags. There is of course the wider issue of packaging like bubble wrap, especially in products such as jiffy bags.

N Lenz says:
15 June 2019

Great idea. I’m sure there are lots of lesson to be learned from both the retailer as well as the consumer side of things but that’s what these pilot stores are all about.
I agree with the aforementioned idea of a Which? campaign to increase public awareness and put pressure on other supermarkets to follow suit.

I’m not sure about buying groceries loose. Paper bags have been traditionally used and paper can be recycled. Fruit and vegetables should never be packed in plastic, and the most appalling misuse of plastic is for totally unnecessary bottles for water.

I agree about bottled water – what a waste of transport and plastic. Just fill a bottle from the tap. However I do like sparkling water with cordial so perhaps we should encourage more sodastream type products.

I have a Sodastream that was an unwanted gift. It was used a couple of times for visitors but has been in storage for years.

Penny Jones says:
15 June 2019

I absolutely agree. No more single use plastic. Was already taking my old paper bags to M& S & only getting loose stuff. Rest comes from really good market stall or our local Afghani veg shop where 3/4 is loose.
Penny
London NW1

The huge quantities of soft drinks on shop shelves must be something that could be done better. Home-made sparkling water plus concentrates would surely save on transport and plastic. Many pubs do it.

There are various brands of carbonated drinks makers available, so why not use one? I’ve hated fizzy drinks since I was a kid.

Because we need a ready supply of quality concentrates that equal our favourite diluted drink.
I like tonic water, for example, on its own or with gin.

It would still do the job for sparkling water.

I’d like to see options that reduce the need for shelves full of sparkling drinks.

Maybe Waitrose and other supermarkets might offer the opportunity to fill up our own bottles.

With what? Difficult to decant sparkling drinks, perhaps, assuming you mean they were made on the premises from their own “tap” water. A home sparkling water maker with a CO₂ cylinder can make, it seems, 60 litres depending how sparkly you want the drink.

Fizzy drinks are often full of sugar and dispensing them can be a messy business. No problem with fizzy water.

There are now a lot on the market, although low sugar ones are order to find, I use an excellent Swedish tonic concentrate found on Amazon, better than Shhhw in my view, and some french made sugar free cordials for soft drinks, after buying myself a Sodastream to get rid of plastic bottles,

I am not one for disruptive action. Whatever I feel about a third runway, using drones to stop people going on business or holiday, or striking to spoil “ordinary people’s” lives, however temporary, is not in my nature. But……if we feel so strongly about excess packaging, having bought our shopping at the supermarket we could remove all the unnecessary packaging, put the products in our own bags and containers, and leave the rubbish at the supermarket doorstep………..

Is that a bad thought 🙁 ?

Yes but an ingenious one 🙂

Long before the charges were introduced for single-use plastic bags I had a problem with some shops trying to insist (company policy apparently) that I accepted one of their carrier bags, even when I had brought my own. I transferred the goods to my bag and handed back their bag, explaining (as politely as possible) that I cared more about the environment than their company policy.

Small shops such as our village shop were allowed to give free bags after the ban, but I don’t know whether that’s been stopped. It has been a while since my bottle of milk or pack of biscuits has been placed in a bag.

Shall we start a campaign, Beryl? 🙂

Why don’t we ask local councils to deposit a large skip in supermarket car parks with an appropriate notice.

“Plastic Packages Pollute
Leave your wrappings here”

We need to get the disapproval message to the supermarkets so the action they must eventually take occurs sooner rather than later. Maybe when Brexit is out of the way the normal business of government will be resumed and they will tackle plastics, a proper consumer protection system, and other pressing issues with some vigour.

Until recently, I would have agreed that bottled water was something we didn’t need, but I buy and use this on the boat where running water is unavailable. Most washing and washing up water is taken from the tap in five litre bottled water containers, but drinking water comes from the shop. I recycle every bottle and hope that something useful can be made from them. I have to bleach the washing water containers when they begin to turn green, so don’t trust the water for drinking.

The green colour is algae, which will grow in water containers that are stored for any length of time in plastic containers exposed to light. Ordinary thin chlorine bleach will remove the algae. When it comes out of the tap, water contains chlorine, but this is gradually lost when stored in a plastic water container. I presume that it can pass through the plastic to the atmosphere.

Filling the five litre water containers with fresh tap water at least once a week will give you safe drinking water, Vynor. It is likely to contain fewer bugs than the bottled water.

Mmm. Thanks Wavechange.

Having skimmed all these comments, I think Waitrose deserves credit for leading the fight against excess and polluting packaging. However, as many have highlighted, hygiene is the essential issue here. As a commercial food producer, I am all too aware that you have to factor in all degrees of personal hygiene behaviour into food service, from the desirable to the highly undesirable. I would dearly like to see Waitrose’ HCCP (hazard critical control point) plan for the pioneering store. My personal view is that I would prefer prepackaged goods, but always with biodegradable packaging.

Waitrose could provide paper bags beside the dispensers and that would avoid the need for plastics, but encouraging people to bring their own containers encourages them to think about problem waste materials such as plastics. Banning supermarkets from issuing single-use carriers has resulted in considerable reduction in use, which illustrates that progress can be made.

Paper bags are biodegradable packaging but the majority of plastics that have been claimed to be biodegradable are not, or may not be strong enough to be used for for taking goods home.

Wet or moist goods are the biggest challenge and I cannot see much chance of customers being able to serve themselves with meat. Maybe a corn starch liner and a paper bag, but I don’t think corn starch is moisture-proof. I’d appreciate your thoughts, Steve.

Large supermarkets in the US and Canada have been doing this for ages – why do we in the UK only seem to adopt the stupid US trends, but take forever to take up the sensible ones such as bringing your own containers to buy in bulk?
I STRONGLY support this move and hope all other such stores get on board NOW.