Waitrose turns grass into egg boxes

Waitrose has given the humble egg box a green makeover with the launch of a revolutionary new packaging material made from ryegrass and paper.

The supermarket’s Duchy Organic Range, which was founded by Prince Charles, will now be nestled in green-coloured boxes made from equal amounts of ryegrass and recycled paper – a UK first, according to Waitrose. 

The switch to greener packaging will save 77 tonnes of wood and recycled paper each year and, when extended to other egg boxes in the Waitrose range, will save an additional 382 tonnes.

The boxes also use 60% less water during production and release 15% less CO2 compared to standard pulp egg boxes. They are also 100% recyclable.

STARS project

Waitrose egg buyer Frances Westerman said: “We often take the humble egg box for granted as it reliably keeps your eggs intact until you’re ready to crack them open.

“While we’ve found no better way for safely getting eggs to your kitchen table, we’re always looking at way we can use less packaging and more sustainable materials to ensure that we minimise our impact on the environment.”

The ryegrass – also known as Lolium – comes from unfertilised and untreated grass which has been mown in a way that prevents sand and dust getting mixed in. It also grows quickly and is quickly replenished, guaranteeing cheap supply.

This new packaging follows a research project involving Bangor and Aberystwyth universities and five other industrial partners, which aimed to explore how Welsh ryegrass could be used to develop eco-friendly packaging for fruit and vegetables. The The Sustainable Ryegrass Products (STARS) project , first launched in 2013, was backed by £600,000 in funds from the Welsh government.

Commercial potential

At the time, Waitrose’s head of sustainability Quentin Clark said: “Moving to easily recycled fibre-based packaging for foods, where this can show positive environmental benefit, is something we’re keen to develop”.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart called the plan a “novel project with commercial potential” and praised the partnership between industry and academia to create new products.

This is the latest in a series of projects, campaigns and intiatives from supermarket groups to reduce their environmental impact. The Courtauld Commitment – a voluntary agreement launched by WRAP and funded by all four UK Governments – has helped several retail businesses, including Waitrose, improve their green credentials, with a specific target to reduce the carbon impact of packaging.

The first-year results of that Commitment, released in January 2015, revealed a 4.5% reduction of the carbon impacts of packaging, along with 80% more food being redistributed by retailers and food manufacturers.

Luke Nicholls

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie