So Waitrose is doing something about all that packaging that attends today’s hyperconsumerism. They’re allowing us all to rock up with our own bags and buy the dry goods we desire straight from a bulk container into our own.
So, to as the Chesterton’s Fence question. Why did we start packaging dry goods in the first place? The answer being that we found we had less waste that way. Sealed packaging is rather more difficult for weevils, flies, rats to get into. So, they ate less of the expensively grown food that we wanted to chow down upon.
Has that reason disappeared as yet?
Waitrose has unveiled its vision of environmentally conscious shopping, offering customers the chance to buy food and drink that is completely free of packaging as part of a ground-breaking trial for a large retailer. In a new drive to try to eliminate unnecessary plastic and packaging, shoppers will be able to fill their own containers with a range of products from a series of dispensers, using the first dedicated refill station installed by a major UK supermarket. In a trial starting this week at a Waitrose supermarket in Oxford, customers are being given refillable options for products including wine and beer, rice and cleaning materials, with prices typically 15% cheaper than the packaged alternatives.
So here’s the question. Sure, packaging costs money. Now, when we add back in the wastage we’ll get from not having the packaging will those products still be cheaper? No, not will Waitrose continue to charge less for them – there are such things as loss leaders to fashion – but will the loss of the costs of the packaging be more than outweighed by the loss of the item or not?
Obviously, once you’ve got teenage buys dicking around with the dispensers the losses will be greater. But in average use? We’re going to have to wait and see, aren’t we?