It’s been just over a year since David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ brought the problem of plastic waste to the front of customers’ and Partners’ minds.
We’ve made a lot of progress in tackling this important issue, often acting before anyone else in retail. We’re not perfect and we have much more to do, and I know that it remains of real concern to many of you. Rightly so. The time seems right to update you on what we’ve achieved so far, and what’s to come.
In 2017 - before Blue Planet II - we made a commitment that all our own-label packaging will be reusable, widely-recycled or home-compostable. Two months ago we brought forward the date to achieve this from 2025 to 2023, because we wanted to be more ambitious and are confident of the progress we’re making. That’s a significant move.
Last January, we also committed to removing all hard-to-recycle black plastic from our own-label products by the end of 2019, and last month we achieved the first stage of this - removing it from fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg. That’s 1,300 tonnes of plastic per annum removed. We believe we’re the only retailer to have made this significant step, and it means we’re more than halfway to achieving our full black plastic goal. You can see recent media coverage of our achievement by visiting the CSR at Waitrose & Partners Google Site.
Our other achievements
Removing single-use coffee cups from our shops has been an amazing step forward. We were a significant user of them - 52 million a year - so this really bold change is having a big impact. In addition, we no longer sell plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds or products containing plastic microbeads. Our Christmas ranges had significantly less plastic in them last month. And customers are being encouraged to bring their own containers when they shop at our counters.
All in all, we’ve reduced the amount of packaging we use by nearly 50% since 2009. And 70% of our plastic packaging is already recyclable.
These changes have been made possible by all of us as Partners through our shared commitment to do the right thing. Thank you. But we can and will do more.
As well as completing our black plastic work this year, we are going to:
• Remove 5p carrier bags from our checkouts in March - 134 million per annum will go
• Replace our fruit and veg bags with home compostable ones - the first supermarket to do so
• Continue to introduce alternatives to plastic trays for our ready meals
• Stop selling disposable plastic cutlery, and introduce sustainably-sourced wood cutlery with our Food To Go service
• Eliminate glitter from our own-brand cards and tags, wrap, Christmas crackers and flowers - the first stage this year and completing by 2020
• Introduce innovative new packaging materials, in particular in our Duchy range, for example on bananas, grapes and biscuits
• Launch the UK’s first home compostable fruit label, on Duchy melons
And we will, of course, continue to build on this activity so that our eradication of unnecessary plastic continues apace.
Beyond our business
Waitrose & Partners has always had a wider responsibility to society. That’s why we’ve decided to invest proceeds from the carrier bag charge into a new initiative - a million pound fund called ‘Plan Plastic’ which will see grants given to organisations who work on initiatives to reduce unnecessary plastic in other areas of our communities. It launches Monday 28 January. This is a really exciting project, working with environmental charity Hubbub, and it’s something which no other retailer is doing. And it comes on top of our two-year support for the Marine Conservation Society’s Beach Clean programme here in the UK, and our support for the Commonwealth Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Challenge Fund - which is looking to tackle pollution across the world.
I’m proud of everything we are achieving as Partners to tackle this crucial issue of our times. We’re all playing our part, whether sharing our progress with customers, managing changes such as removing single-use cups, or sharing suggestions for how we can improve. Thank you so much for this.
We won’t always get it right first time, and there’s many challenges - but between us we overcome them. And we’ll rise to the challenge of achieving even more in the fight against unnecessary plastic.