Boots introduces compostable pharmacy bags after plastics backlash

Boots is switching its plastic pharmacy bags to compostable alternatives made using potato starch, after customers began returning plastic bags and voicing their anger on social media this summer.

The move comes after the introduction of non-bleached paper bags at checkouts (pictured). Image: Boots UK

The move comes after the introduction of non-bleached paper bags at checkouts (pictured). Image: Boots UK

The health and beauty retailer first introduced plastic bags to pharmacies earlier this year, after switching to a central distribution model for around 8% of its pharmacy orders. The remaining 92% of orders, prepared in stores locally, continued to be bagged in paper.

This move attracted the ire of customers, with some returning their plastic bags to stores in protest and claiming that the packaging was inconsistent with Boots’ commitments under WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact. In response, Boots said plastic bags were being used for items that were “bulkier” or “travelling longer distances” as they are more durable than paper.

Now, Boots has announced that it has developed an alternative to plastic bags for pharmacy orders prepared at its central dispensing facility in Preston. The new packaging is made from potato starch and purports to be 100% compostable. To ensure they are disposed of correctly, Boots is encouraging customers to use the new bags as lines for their food waste bins.

The first of the new bags will be sent out this month, with Boots estimating that It will distribute more than 10 million compostable alternatives between March 2020 and March 2021. Its central dispensing pharmacy, which will use the bags, now covers around 10% of all Boots pharmacy orders.

“At the start of this year, our customers told us they didn’t want to receive their medicines in plastic bags and we have been testing alternative materials for some time,” Boots UK’s pharmacy director Richard Bradley said.  “So we are thrilled that our new compostable bags allow us to continue to deliver medicines to patients in a way that is safe, clean and dry, whilst helping to reduce our reliance on conventional plastic.”

Boots has already removed single-use plastic carrier bags from the checkouts of its 2,465 UK stores, replacing them with non-bleached paper alternatives.

Earlier this month, the retailer additionally revealed that it will use 149 tonnes less plastic packaging to house its range of Christmas gifts this year than it did in 2018. Other retailers currently advertising plastic-free Christmas products include the likes of Selfridges, John Lewis & Partners and Iceland.

Sarah George



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