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Supermarket chain Waitrose is canning plastic shrink-wrap on multi-buy tinned food. Waitrose will be the second UK supermarket to ditch this type of packaging, following a similar move by Tesco in January. 

Multi-buy cans to be sold loose

Shrink-wrap, which is used to bundle cans of food together for convenience, is notoriously difficult to recycle.

The plastic has already been removed from cans of essential Waitrose kidney beans and sweetcorn, with more to follow over the coming months. Most multibuy cans will now be sold loose, while some, such as tomatoes, will move to a recyclable card sleeve. 

Surge in demand for canned goods

The decision comes after a recent surge in sales of long-life goods. During lockdown, demand for canned food rose 2,000 percent. Even now, sales are up 50 percent compared to last year. The removal of shrinkwrap from Waitrose own-brand canned produce will therefore save an estimated 45 metric tons of plastic waste per year.

The chain will also save an additional 4.49 metric tons of waste by removing multi-buy plastic on its own-brand tissues. 

A step in the right direction

The announcement coincides with UK Recycling Week, which starts Monday, and is part of the chain’s wider plan to phase out all non-recyclable plastic by 2021.

Claire Mitchell, Canned Food Buyer for Waitrose & Partners, said: “Our essential Waitrose tinned food has been selling in record numbers since March and we want to ensure that we can continue to give customers the best quality and value, without passing on the plastic on such popular products.

“Our customers expect us to keep tackling plastic, which includes eliminating single-use shrinkwrap on our multibuys. This is a significant step towards our plan to phase out non-recyclable plastic from all our packaging by 2021.”

Greenpeace campaign

Last month, Greenpeace called on the UK Government to set a firm target to halve the amount of single-use plastic in supermarkets by 2025. 

They have also urged supermarkets to take action. Citing a petition signed by over 2 million people, they highlighted the substantial consumer appetite for more sustainable food packaging.