SHOPPERS crowded into Oxford's Waitrose earlier to get a first look at the new packaging-free initiatives being trialled in store.

The branch off Botley Road is being used as a test-bed by the supermarket to see how it can reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic used in its products.

Fruit and veg has been set free from its containers while customers can also get refills on staples and wine and beer.

Oxford Mail:

Chefs are on hand to help cut up veg and give cooking tips while discounts are available for those who get involved.

Rachel Edmonds, who came up with the scheme, said Oxford was chosen because of the amount of people in the city who have been calling for things to change.

She said: "We know that in this area people are really engaged with this. We wanted to be able to try something new with them.

"It is all about testing things out and seeing what works and what our customers want.

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"We know we are not perfect and we need to do more. This has been months in the planning and we're excited to see how it works out."

The trial will run for 11 weeks then Waitrose will decide what has worked and what hasn't and judge whether to roll out some of the changes across all branches.

Oxford Mail:

Ms Edmonds said that, in devising the plans, the shop has tried to make a wide range of its products plastics-free while also concentrating on the biggest 'pain points' for customers where packaging is seen as unnecessary.

Staff member Nikki Lamb has been made an 'unpacked advocate' and will stand at the front of the store advising people on the new schemes.

She said: "There's been such a buzz since we launched it. I think it's even bigger than when we opened. Everyone has been thrilled we are doing it here.

"On a daily basis we get people asking what we are going to do about all the plastic packaging. People have been asking for this for a long time."

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Several independent groups already offer plastics-free shopping under various guises in Oxford.

Scoop Zero Waste run monthly pop-ups at the Tap Social in Botley while SESI, which already run a refills stall at East Oxford Farmer's Market, launched in the Flo's community centre last week.

Oxford Mail:

Mum of one Louise Wright, 35, from Botley, said Waitrose's new initiatives would make her use less plastic.

She said: "We tried to cut down as much as possible but it needs to be made easy for people.

"We have visited a lot of the pop-up shops that happen every month but this will make it more accessible to more people."

Dan Booker, visiting on business from Bournemouth, said he hoped other shops would follow the example.

He said: "It is a brave move but someone has got to get the ball rolling on this or it will never take off.

"Supermarkets have been using way too much plastic for years and I don't want to think about the damage that has done to the world."