Plastic-free supermarkets a step closer thanks to new scheme’s popularity

The news comes as supermarkets report a 90% drop in the sale of single-use plastic bags.

While supermarkets report a 90% decrease in the sale of single-use carrier bags, two major retailers are taking steps to further reduce the amount of plastic they stock.

Following the success of its pilot ‘Unpacked’ scheme in Oxford, Waitrose will be rolling out the initiative in three more shops by the end of the year, following an ‘overwhelmingly positive response’.

Meanwhile Marks and Spencer is offering a new reusable container incentive for customers purchasing fresh food at its Market Place Counters.

‘The reaction has been incredible […] giving us the confidence that customers are prepared to change how they shop with us,’ said Tor Harris, head of corporate social responsibility for Waitrose & Partners.

The Unpacked scheme in the Botley Road, Oxford store involved taking more than 200 products out of their packaging, with the aim of saving thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic.

A similar option will now be offered in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in September and Abingdon and Wallingford, both in Oxfordshire, in November.

‘We are keen to take the Unpacked concept forward and these additional tests will help us achieve this as well as understand its commercial viability,’ added Ms Harris.

Marks and Spencers’ scheme aims to incentivise customers to bring their own reusable containers by offering a 25p discount off each meal.

‘Our Market Place containers are already widely recyclable, but we want to go a step further with the introduction of an incentive to encourage customers to switch to reusable containers,’ said Paul Willgoss, director of food technology at M&S.

This news comes as supermarkets report a drop in plastic bag sales by 90% since 2015, when the 5p charge was introduced, and halved in the last year.

The move away from single-use bags has been partly attributed to the Blue-Planet II television series, which highlighted the scale of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The series attracted more than 14 million viewers.