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How RXUK Top500 retailers Wilko and Waitrose are innovating to remove plastic from their products

More unpacked products are now available at Waitrose

RetailX Top500 retailers Wilko and Waitrose both this week showed how they are innovating to make their businesses more sustainable. 

The two retailers, both ranked Leading in RXUK Top500 research, are both working to remove plastic from products that they sell. 

Waitrose has designed compostable coffee capsules as part of its ambition to make all of its own-label packaging either easy to recycle, reusable or home compostable by 2023. 

The capsules are made of materials including sunflower seed bark, corn-derived sugars and cellulose that can be home composted and come in a fully recyclable box. They contain fair-trade coffee and can be used in Nespresso-style coffee machines. The move comes in a year that Waitrose has seen a 39% rise in coffee sales, while sister department store John Lewis saw sales of coffee capsule machines rise at the same time. This trend is expected to continue after the current Covid-19 lockdown. 

Polly Astbury, coffee buyer at Waitrose, says: “We’re working hard so that all our packaging can be more easily recycled, reusable or home compostable in the next two years. After a year of so many cups of coffee, it was essential we looked for a more sustainable material. As coffee grains can also be used as a fertiliser,  making our capsules home compostable was an ideal alternative.”

Waitrose has also recently announced plans to stop selling children’s magazines containing disposable toys in an effort to reduce single use plastic. 

Meanwhile, Wilko has marked a year of plastic-free wipes – after it started to use renewable fibres across its range of 22 different types of wipes. Twelve months on, it says it has kept 1,500 tonnes of plastic out of the environment. 

Wilko chief executive Jerome Saint-Marc says: “We’re a family-owned retailer and understand the importance of making little changes for the better and, our responsibility to future generations. Our customers tell us that plastic reduction is important to them, that’s why we signed up to the UK Plastics Pact and, why we’re celebrating our 1500 tonnes milestone with them.”

Wilko launched its plastic plan in June 2020 with the aim of ensuring a minimum of 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging by April 2022, removing all problematic plastics and reducing unnecessary plastic in all products by 2025 and making 100% of all plastic packaging and products reusable, recyclable or compostable. The retailer has also removed all micro beads from wilko products, replaced plastic stem ear buds and removed single use carrier bags from its 415 stores around the UK. The retailer signed up to the BRC net carbon road map in November 2020.

The measures come as a new study suggests that most shoppers around the world think brands and retailers must do more to reduce waste.

The study questioned 2,499 shoppers from three European markets as well as Russia and China on behalf of study of health and wellness brand Nutrifresh and loyalty company TCC and found that 60% said they believed the onus was on brands and retailers to cut waste, while 78% choose environmentally friendly products when they visit the supermarket. 

Nicolas Garrelly, sustainability manager at TCC, says: “This research shows shoppers across the world are passionate about sustainability, and want to take more actions in their everyday lives to avoid food waste. Grocery retailers, in particular, have an important role to play in helping them do so. Retailers can tap into this strength of feeling through their loyalty rewards. Shoppers place a high value on rewards that make a meaningful difference to their lives – products that can help them make more environmentally friendly choices or keep healthy. This should encourage the development of products with sustainability and purpose at their very core.”

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