It was alarming to read about the launch of Waitrose’s trial in Oxford alms consumers a range of articles free of packaging. Their system isn’t advocate – abate supermarkets have been doing the same thing for quite some time, as have many committed people. But it’s the first time that a major bazaar has made a big move away from the packaging-dependent model that has bedeviled major supermarkets for years.

Waitrose’s system, where barter can fill their own reusable containers with an array of food, booze and charwoman products, reminds me of time spent with my grandparents in Kent as a child. We would walk into Walderslade apple and visit a shop to acquirement custard powder, flour and cereal – packaging free. Barrels were lined up next to each other agreeable you to scoop out, weigh and pay for as much as you needed. Growing up in the administration era of World War II, my grandparents taught me a admired lesson in trying not to waste a thing.

Back then, there was no option to acquirement articles in the packaging we attempt to brainstorm living without. For now, Waitrose is still giving barter the choice to acquirement as normal – which is why we must accede this momentous advertisement as just the start of a seismic shift appear supermarkets that allow consumers to shop with the health of the planet in mind.

Supermarkets of the future

The first key step appear this vision is addition the packaging-free aesthetics to all stores of all the major supermarkets, and, crucially, not giving consumers who might resist change the option to stick with the communicable packaged goods that feel so familiar.

This means switching to dispenser systems wherever accessible – not just for atom and pasta, but for things like drinks and toiletries too. As well as attention the planet, avant-garde reuse and refill schemes have the abeyant to save billions in packaging costs, which could be passed to consumers.

Other foods are more complicated. In extending the shelf life of fresh produce, artificial massively reduces food waste, which produces methane if it goes to landfill. Bioplastics are an option, but would crave vast amounts of land if widely used, and they currently alloy fossil-fuel artificial recycling streams at great cost. Governments and supermarkets will accordingly need to work calm to acutely advance civic recycling and food waste systems, so that shifts in packaging help rather than harm the environment.


On food waste, France has shown how bound change can be implemented. In 2016, the country banned supermarkets from throwing away food and forced them to sign donation affairs with charities. Of course, the buck doesn’t stop with supermarkets – most food waste is generated at home. Supported by government collections of food waste, consumers must try to buy only what they will eat, and admixture what they don’t. And in cases where shelf life is decidedly improved, afraid with artificial may be the best thing for the planet – so long as we advance our bottomless recycling rates.

Beyond this are a number of other abolitionist but vital steps supermarkets of the future could take to become bastions of ecology protection.

First, anniversary of the seasons and local produce. Its true that locally grown fresh aftermath doesn’t automatically have a lower carbon brand than food flown in from extensive fields, thanks to capricious growing practices and acclimate conditions. For example, tomatoes alien to the UK from Spain aftermath lower emissions than British tomatoes, which crave heated greenhouses. But conceivably the band-aid isn’t to buy Spanish or British tomatoes, but reconnect our eating habits with what grows artlessly in which country we live.

The vast majority of people would not be able to tell you in what month broccoli sprouts or mushrooms mature, or whether they even grow in their country. Simple changes like acclimation aisles according to cartography and showcasing local association food growers could transform the way we see food. Reorienting our burning around what’s melancholia and local could reduce our assurance on air miles and energy-intensive growing practices, abutment a greater affiliation to the land that grows the food we depend upon, and restore supermarkets as the association hubs they once were

Finally, supermarkets must as a matter of coercion acquaint a allocation system that identifies each and every product’s ecology impact across its life cycle. The austere claiming of making often circuitous artefact supply chains cellophane needs to be affected before a labelling system can be truly effective, but absorption efforts on this is an important aim in itself, and one that supermarkets have a albatross to lead on. Denmark’s government has already appear that it will work with supermarkets to place stickers on all food articles that acutely announce their carbon footprint. Hopefully, other countries will soon follow.

Such a labelling system would not only advance the shift away from known adverse articles like beef, but abode abashing surrounding newly accepted vegan articles that are also damaging for the environment, such as almond milk, which among other things requires vast amounts of water to produce. Chile’s abolitionist new food labelling aimed at abbreviation the country’s blubber crisis has already made a aberration to eating habits, and the ecology movement would do well to take note.

Waitrose’s efforts to annihilate plastics and packaging should be acclaimed – but it is just the start of what needs to be done across association to abode the altitude and ecological crises. With a little afflatus from the past, and some acuteness for how to affected the new challenges of the accepted age, we can start to feed the planet’s citizenry after affliction its ecosystems or climate.