Packaging free shopping (like Waitrose Unpacked)


Some really interesting news this week, with Waitrose launching a trial of packaging-free shopping.

In my hometown we have a couple of long-running health food shops that sell dried food (like lentils, pasta, etc) in bulk and you bring your own container. I think it’s a fantastic idea, but getting into the habit of always taking a container to go shopping is a challenge!

Has anybody here tried packaging-free shopping? Have you successfully changed your habits? Be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts


I think it’s a great idea. Most of the supermarkets are reducing the amount of packaging they use which is great to see. A couple of supermarkets provide paper bags for loose produce and a massive reduction in black plastics (for things like ready meals).

But what Waitrose are trialling is really impressive and I’d love to see it widely rolled out. :grimacing: The loose dispensers are a great idea + it’s cheaper :man_shrugging:

I agree we need to reduce plastic packaging and support ways to eliminate them but I have no interest in joining the 18th century again.


Personally I would say that Waitrose doing that is a drop in the ocean compared to if Amazon bothered to look at the issue

Amazon would sell individually wrapped peanuts if they could.


I used to use this at Whole Foods Market in Glasgow before Amazon shut it down. Was really handy and convenient and definitely led to less packaging and food waste

This article is interesting as it points out it’s not as simple as just not having any plastic packaging; food waste goes up dramatically, and cotton shopping bags aren’t necessarily less damaging to the environment, depending on how long you have to use them for…

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If it’s like any other type of pic n mix I’ve seen I’ll be avoiding it. I’ve witnessed all of the below and more at salad bars and such.

  • People using their hands
  • People eating directly from them
  • Using the same scoop for all sections
  • People mixing together (accidentally or on purpose) two different types.

It just becomes a disgusting germ ridden mess because people don’t respect them enough.

I like the idea but I think it needs to be properly manned for it to work.

I don’t like the idea of my food being packaging free, for reasons mentioned by @Ordog

I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use. I’ve gone on to a deodorant that is in a tiny tube made from more ‘sustainable’ plastic, I use shampoo bars for my hair and glass jars of coconut oil instead of conditioner. And after years of avoiding all of these things on the basis of cost, I’m now finding them cheaper than the many plastic bottles I used to use and throw away.

But I’d much rather do what I’m doing than take my chances with these packaging-free dispensers, especially with food. Perhaps I’d feel comfortable dispensing hair conditioner from one of these - but I’ve got a perfectly good solution that doesn’t require me to drag containers to shops, and I know exactly what I’m getting.

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A few points.

  1. Waitrose have been going around saying they’re the first supermarket to offer pick and mix frozen fruit. This is incorrect, it’s been a thing at Booths supermarkets for many years. BBC still have this claim on their article, but Guardian doesn’t (unless I overlooked it).

  2. I have heard concerns about the packaging free food dispensers and I’ve reviewed photos and for the most part you don’t need to worry. They’re gravity-powered vertical dispensers, where you pull out a stopper and the contents pour out. Protected from those people you mentioned by design. The exception being the frozen fruit, which I believe are scooped. However, being frozen, it’s less likely people will use their hands or eat directly. They probably will use the same scoop, and accidental mixing is a given.

As for my thoughts on it, I like the idea, and would definitely be interested in using it, but it’d need to roll out to a wider market and to not-so-upmarket stores (if Morrisons or Tesco did it, I’d be interested).

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Waitrose Unpacked looks amazing, not only is it good for the environment in terms of reducing the amount plastic we are using it should cut down on the amount of food wastage as people will only pay for what they need.

However as already highlighted it will come with its own issues. Having worked in food retail for 5+ years previously I can already see people using their hands, the same scoops for various items (allergens) or just seeing it as free food/try before you buy!

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In Cardiff we have a shop called Ripple that does pretty much the same thing, but as a non-profit.

If you’re in Cardiff, they’re over at:
102 Albany Road (CF24 3RT)

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