Waitrose gives green light to tomato punnets made with leaves, recycled cardboard

Waitrose Tomato

Tried and tested in 2017, Waitrose officially has introduced trays made from tomato leaves and recycled cardboard as exclusive packaging material for their Duchy Tomatoes series. 

The 200g Waitrose Duchy Organic Cherry Tomatoes on the vine packaged in new punnets were trialled across 286 branches in the UK in 2017, while the 225g punnet of Waitrose Duchy Organic baby plum tomatoes were tested in 170 branches. 

One year later, the whole range of Waitrose Duchy Tomatoes are now sold in trays made from tomato leaves and recycled cardboard. The packaging itself is a rather revolutionary concoction: By joining leftover dried tomatoes leaves with reused  cardboard, the trays put both materials to excellent use, particularly the tomato residue itself that otherwise would be simply chucked away. 

According to Waitrose, the punnets potentially avoid the use of 3.5 million plastic trays per annum.

The retailer’s latest innovation with Duchy Tomatoes is a part of a bigger initiative.  Waitrose has begun that masterminds clever packaging into various other products. These include Waitrose Duchy Organic eggs, Waitrose Red Lentil Pasta and Waitrose Green Pea Pasta.

In an exclusive interview with Produce Business UK, a Waitrose spokesperson explained the impact of the initiative: “We’re always looking to innovate with packaging – our gluten-free pea and lentil pasta packaging uses waste peas and lentils that saves paper. The majority of our eggs are in egg boxes made from rye grass and recycled paper. This uses 20 per cent less electricity and 60 per cent less water as less paper is used. We also trialled a ready-meal tray made out of wood-based fibre that replaced the plastic version in June.”

Waitrose strong leaders in alternative materials

In April of this year, the retailer made a bold move by signing up to campaign group Wrap’s UK Plastic Pact, a collaborative initiative between brands, retailers, manufacturers, NGOs and governments, that has pledged to make all UK packaging recyclable by 2025. 

For retailers such as Waitrose, the commitment is not simply signing a petition. It means action, it means innovation and it means a very tangible outcome.

“Our commitment is a stretching target, but we are determined to achieve it through a mix of innovation and working with suppliers to change how we package the products we sell,” a Waitrose spokesperson tells Produce Business UK

It’s hardly news that Waitrose has been vesting in packaging alternatives. In fact, the retailer has been committed to this for the past decade.

‘‘Since 2009, we’ve reduced overall packaging across all products by nearly 50 per cent and are excited about this new way to present our Duchy Organic tomatoes to our customers,’’ comments Nicola Waller, Head of Fresh Buying - Produce at Waitrose. ‘‘We're serious about looking for alternative packaging materials. This uses materials that would otherwise be wasted, which can only be a good thing. We will ensure that all our own-label packaging is widely recyclable (using the widely recycled logo), reusable or home compostable by 2025. And looking for alternative forms of packaging is part of this process.”

Series of programmes proves their commitment

Waitrose was the first supermarket to stop selling products containing plastic microbeads in 2016, moving exclusively to only selling cotton buds with paper stems, not plastic. 

In the summer of 2017, they made sandwich wrappers easier to recycle. Although the sandwich wrapper itself is recyclable, Waitrose discovered that people were having difficulties separating the cardboard from the see-through film part of the pack. By making the film easily removable from the cardboard, via a peelable tab, the cardboard has now become much more easily recyclable. With all those sandwiches sold daily across the nation, this is indeed a small detail with a high impact.

By September 2018, the retailer also aims to get rid of single use plastic straws, replacing them with non-plastic alternatives. Instead, they have introduced reusable drinking straws. The red, green and blue candy-striped straws are made from smooth, sturdy plastic and are easy to clean with a cleaning pipe. 

Waitrose also has pledged to remove all takeaway disposable coffee cups by the end of 2018, saving more than an estimated 52 million cups a year. What’s more, to accelerate recycling for coffee cups across the entire nation, not just their shops, they support the industry efforts led by the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group(PCRRG) and the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE UK). While the PCRRG helps to increase the recognition that used paper cups can provide high-quality material to the market place, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment provides a platform for beverage carton manufacturers and their paperboard suppliers to benchmark and profile cartons as renewable, recyclable and low-carbon packaging solutions. 

According to the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, the UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year. 

Waitrose’s support on this will certainly make a dent in that number.

Finally, with one of the biggest issues being black plastic — a hard material to recycle — Waitrose commits to phasing out all own-label black plastic packaging by 2019, including those packagings used for fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish. So far,  they have indeed removed 65 per cent of black plastic packaging in fresh fruit and vegetables.   

Already paving the path for 2018, a Waitrose spokesperson disclosed they will be the first major retailer to sell own-label home compostable coffee pods from December 2018.

“In December, we will be launching the first supermarket own-label home compostable coffee pod," the Waitrose spokesperson said. "We don’t send any food to landfill in the UK and are well on our way of achieving our target of reducing organic waste matter by 2020/2021 compared to our 2014/2015 baseline. Last year, we achieved a 31 per cent reduction against our baseline. We are currently rolling out FareShare Go to the majority of our shops. The IT platform makes it easier for shops and local charities to communicate more smoothly to help food be donated."

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