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Waitrose trials selling groceries without packaging

Waitrose has started a trial aimed at cutting down on packaging waste by allowing shoppers to bring their own containers – and the packaging-free produce is up to 15% cheaper.

The 'Waitrose Unpacked' trial, which will run until 18 August 2019 at the supermarket's Botley Road store in Oxford, allows customers to use reusable containers to buy products such as coffee, pasta and frozen fruit. 

Packaging will be removed from fruit and veg, and dispensers will provide refillable options for a range of groceries. Shoppers can bring their own containers to fill, or pay a £5 deposit to borrow a reusable box from the supermarket, which will be refunded once the container is returned. Shoppers can also buy reusable bottles and containers for beer, wine and washing-up liquid.

Customers will still be able to choose to buy packaged equivalents of the products, which the supermarket says will allow it to test which option is more popular. It says it hopes to roll the scheme out to more stores if it's successful. 

While some other supermarkets already let customers use their own containers to buy some products – such as cheese or fish bought over the counter – Waitrose says it's the first UK shop to test a deposit scheme for customers to borrow boxes.

See our Supermarket Shopping Tips guide for help on cutting your shopping bill, plus our 13 ways to use less plastic AND save cash.

Some loose groceries will be up to 15% cheaper

Waitrose says loose fruit and vegetables are the same price or cheaper than their packaged equivalents, while products bought from refill stations are "up to 15% cheaper" than the packaged versions – and none will be more expensive.

Of course, even if some items are cheaper, they may well be cheaper still at other supermarkets, so weigh that up when deciding where to shop.

Here are the products that are part of the trial: 

  • Fruit and veg. One hundred and sixty fruits and vegetables are available to buy without packaging. The store will also offer a 'pick and mix' of frozen fruit, including mango, strawberries and blueberries. 
  • Detergent and washing-up liquid. An automatic dispenser lets customers fill special Ecover containers with detergent and washing-up liquid. The Ecover containers cost £1 each, and can be reused for future purchases.

  • Wine and beer. Four different types of wine and four different types of beer are available on tap to take home in reusable bottles. The bottles must be bought by the customer the first time they use the on-tap facilities – they'll be charged an extra £1 for a wine bottle and an extra £4 for a 1.89-litre beer bottle, both of which can be refilled for later purchases. 

  • Coffee. Four different types of coffee are available for customers to grind in store to reduce glass and plastic packaging. 

  • Staples such as pasta, rice and cereal. Twenty-eight products, including grains, lentils and dried fruit, are available from dispensers rather than in packaging.

As part of the scheme, plastic wrappings for flowers and indoor plants will also be replaced with recyclable craft paper. 

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