The UK's 4th largest supermarket chain will roll out plastic-free fruit and veg in 60 stores across the country after a 10-month trial in three stores in Skipton, Guiseley and St Ives saw the amount of loose fruit and veg bought by customers increase an average of 40%.
The supermarket said it expected the new 'buy bagless' fruit and veg shelves to result in a similar switch from bagged to loose - saving an estimated three tonnes of plastic a week, or 156 tonnes a year.
Customers will be able to choose from up to 127 varieties of fruit and veg - and buy them loose or put them in recyclable paper bags.
Morrisons said the prices would be comparable between bagged and loose with only a difference in price if there was a product spec difference.
‘The changes will remove 9,000 tonnes of unnecessary or problematic plastic each year’
Retailers are under mounting pressure from consumers to cut the amount of packaging they use amid concern for the environment about the amount of plastic being found in the world’s oceans.
As well as removing plastic bags from produce aisles, Morrisons has removed plastic bags from its range of fresh flowers, replacing them with paper alternatives. It will also make paper bags a permanent fixture at all of its checkouts in 2019, following a successful trial.
Morrisons claimed its initiatives announced to date would remove 9,000 tonnes of unnecessary or problematic plastic a year. This figure included 174m plastic produce bags removed from fruit and veg aisles, and 600 tonnes of unrecyclable polystyrene removed from own brand food and drink products. A further 1,300 tonnes of plastic would removed as a result of the launch of paper carrier bags this month, it said.
The loose fruit and veg areas will be rolled out in 60 Morrisons stores during the course of 2019. They would then continue to be introduced as part of the supermarket’s ongoing store refurbishment programme nationwide, the supermarket said.
Campaigners demand sweeping changes at supermarkets
Environmental pressure group Greenpeace welcomed the move but said more was still to be done.
Fiona Nicholls, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “Morrisons is showing initiative by being the first major UK supermarket with a ‘buy bagless’ fruit and veg section. Next we’d like to see this rolled out across all of its 491 stores.
“Morrisons also makes clear that some produce lines, such as potatoes and apples, will still be packaged in unnecessary plastic – so there’s still room for improvement.
“Greenpeace is calling for all UK supermarkets to eliminate unnecessary and unrecyclable packaging by 2020.”
‘We hope customers appreciate the choice’
Morrisons’ scheme allows customers to buy loose or packaged fruit and veg. When customers buy loose fruit and veg, they can take them through the checkout loose or bag them in Morrisons recyclable paper bags.
The move meant Morrisons customers would be able able to buy loose cauliflower, white cabbage and chestnut mushrooms for the first time, said the grocer.
The loose veg range includes carrots, potatoes and onions as well as more unusual seasonal varieties such as celeriac. Fruit will include apples, pears and oranges, plus figs, persmimons and pomegranates.
Drew Kirk, Fruit and Veg Director at Morrisons said: “Many of our customers would like the option of buying their fruit and veg loose. So we’re creating an area of our greengrocery with no plastic where they can pick as much or as little as they like. We’re going back to using traditional greengrocery and we hope customers appreciate the choice.”