Waitrose has tapped into a growing desire from consumers to make their packaging more sustainable. In response to various campaigns by a number of supermarkets to improve their environmental policies, Waitrose is creating new packaging for its own-brand sandwich range, making the popular lunchtime staple easier to recycle. The move will make the cardboard packaging easy to separate from the currently non-recyclable plastic film.

Environmentally friendly practises have become an expected rather than a desirable factor. According to Mintel’s Food Packaging Trends UK 2016, 73% of British consumers believe that retailers should be providing more help with recycling product packaging. Supermarkets, in particular, have begun to gain a bad reputation for over-packaging their produce and not doing enough to tackle environmental concerns. Hence, Waitrose has launched a string of recycling initiatives in order to try and stand out from increasing competition.

SUPERMARKETS WORK TO STRENGTHEN ETHICAL CONSUMERISM

The ethical trend has seen consumers become more aware of environmental factors in the retail industry, with shoppers scrutinising products more closely to check if they are ethically sourced. It is not only Waitrose that has realised the importance of this trend; other supermarkets are also finding ways to resolve issues such as food waste and recycling. For instance, both Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have added laser labelling on selected fruit, like avocados and watermelons.

There is a link between ethics and price. Consumers tend to associate higher prices with ethical sourcing, pay, and ethical products. According to Mintel research, consumers associate Waitrose, a more premium supermarket with the attributes ‘cares for the environment’, ‘socially responsible’, and ‘has a good reputation’. In keeping with this image, Waitrose has made several commitments to become more eco-friendly, including working with a disposable coffee cup manufacturer to invent a cup that can be recycled in standard facilities. Currently, very few recycling centres will separate the paper from the plastic coating inside, making most disposable coffee cups difficult to recycle.

Looking to the future, retailers must work on making it easier for consumers to be able to recycle products and packaging. Recycling rates are currently stagnant; with younger consumers less likely to recycle, which could be due to the fact that many flats do not offer recycling facilities. Supermarkets can combat this by offering education and advice on how to recycle as well as having more on-site recycling facilities and recycling incentive schemes. While Waitrose’s attempt to simplify recycling sandwich wrappers is a move in the right direction, there is an opportunity for supermarkets to do more to become true havens for sustainability.

Chana Baram is an analyst at Mintel writing reports for the retail sector. Chana previously worked as a category analyst at an international insight and market research company, focusing on the high-street fashion sector.

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