Binning the rhetoric

Waitrose’s invite to shoppers to use their own containers when in-store is the latest unveiling of an environmentally conscious shopping initiative.

It follows the formation of the #FoodSavvy Lunch Club – a two-year campaign to create a culture of meal planning and reusable lunch packaging to reduce food and packaging waste.

The #FoodSavvy Lunch Club, a collaboration between Norfolk and Suffolk Councils and environmental charity Hubbub, was trialled successfully in March 2019 with regional businesses Aviva, AXA, BT and the Environment Agency.

It challenged 50 employees to go for a month without using single-use packaging at lunch time. Trial results revealed that 83% said the #FoodSavvyLunch Club helped them reduce their single use plastics, with participants on average reducing their usage by 54%. Food waste was reduced by approximately 52% per participant and 67% said the trial had helped them to save money.

Waitrose’s initiative – Waitrose Unpacked – is just as simple, and will be branded strongly across an outlet in Oxford to maximise awareness until 11 August 2018.

The retailer has taken hundreds of products out of their packaging and will offer a dedicated refillable zone, the UK’s first supermarket frozen ‘pick and mix’ and borrow-a-box scheme.

Packaged equivalents of the products will remain in their usual areas to create an effective test.

Both are thought provoking ideas – asking individuals to think about waste and the amount of plastic used in the food they buy and eat.

The two examples show a collective ambition to bring together cross-sections of groups and individuals to tackle the food waste issue as well as get the attention of influencers.

But changing the use of plastic is not that straightforward. We will need a framework to find alternatives that suit the long-term commercial standing of businesses.

In my mind it is also clear that this change will be led by companies, big and small, as they seek to manage their environmental impact.

Businesses should be at the heart of championing a sustainable plastics future where we substitute current plastics for alternatives that ensure plastics can be recycled and reused.

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