Waitrose to halve food packaging by 2016

Supermarket retailer Waitrose has announced that it intends to halve its food packaging by 2016 compared to 2005 levels, as part of its corporate social responsibility plans.

According to the supermarket, changes affecting three of its product ranges: Good to Go snacks and sandwiches, Menu by Waitrose ready meals and all meat packaging, are contributing to a saving of almost 100 tonnes of packaging a year.

Changes to the Good to Go range have seen packaging rates fall by 25 tonnes a year. This has been achieved in part by increasing the size of the clear window on sandwich packs, saving 11 tonnes of packaging a year (however, this clear window is still hard to recycle). The range has also seen information printed directly onto fruit bag packaging rather than onto a label, lightweighting portion packets by 60 per cent.

The Menu by Waitrose ready meals have seen the width of their sleeve packaging reduced, thereby requiring 33 tonnes less packaging each year, an overall weight saving of 20 per cent.

Waitrose claims this is also the first time a retailer has introduced fully lacquered aluminium trays for ready meals (pictured right), a move it states will result in a more ‘attractive, earthenware appearance’, as well as enabling customers to cook and serve the meals in the same tray and recycle them after use.

All meat sold by the retailer has also had its packaging changed, with ‘flow wrap’ packets being introduced. These have seen the removal of plastic trays, cutting packaging by 38 tonnes a year, a saving of 70 per cent.

Karen Graley, Waitrose Packaging and Reprographics Manager, said: “We are always working hard to reduce packaging where we can, to decrease the waste reaching our customers’ bins and ensure they can recycle as much as possible.

“Re-launching a range is a fantastic opportunity to do this and cutting packaging by nearly 100 tonnes per year is a great result to have achieved on our journey to halving packaging by 2016.”

‘Corporate social responsibility pillars’

Waitrose states that its packaging redesigns are part of its 12 ‘Waitrose Way’ commitments, which come under its four ‘corporate social responsibility pillars’: ‘Treading Lightly’, ‘Championing British’, Treating People Fairly’ and ‘Living Well’.

Quentin Clark, Head of Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing at Waitrose, said: “These pledges by no means cover everything we're up to. But when we spoke to customers these 12 areas are what people said really mattered most.

"As a nation we're getting busier, and lack of time means we need to be able to trust the retailer we are using. So when creating these pledges we made sure the emphasis was on how we we're being part of the solution, now and in the future - we want it to be really easy for our customers to know we’re doing the right thing.”

The news comes after a report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) urged retailers to make ‘small changes’ to their packaging in order to reduce food waste.

Suggestions included providing better information on keeping food ‘fresher for longer’, improving the recyclability of packaging and using campaigns such as ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ to encourage customers to reduce food waste.

Read more about the 12 ‘Waitrose Way’ commitments and the WRAP ‘Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging’ report.