We're committed to minimising waste at all stages of the supply chain, food production and sending zero waste to landfill from our shops.
The Pret Charity Run operates a fleet of LPG vans that deliver over 12,000 fresh meals to numerous shelters for the homeless in London every week. Many charities across the UK collect directly from our shops at the end of each day too. In total, Pret donates around 2.5 million products to UK homeless charities every year, with the added bonus of ensuring our fresh natural food goes to the homeless at the end of the day and not to landfill. In fact, this prevents up to 250 tonnes of food from ending up in landfill.
Tragically, a few of our shops have no regular charities willing to collect our fresh, natural food at the end of each day. If you run a charity in need of good food, call Giovanna Pasini on 020 7932 5425 and let us know – we may be able to help.
Our goal is to avoid landfill at all costs; we know it's bad for the environment, that they’re filling up fast and that they’re becoming increasingly expensive. Getting our recycling scheme bedded in is essential. We've rolled out front- and back-of-house recycling and we’ve been composting our organic waste for a number of years now.
Many customers want a bag and a handful of napkins each visit, but if you don't please tell us – we won't mind, in fact we'll thank you! In 2009 we reduced the number of plastic bags we used by 28%, simply by asking our customers if they wanted one. And in 2012 we finally got rid of the plastic bag altogether, replacing them with paper bags from sustainably managed sources. We continue to train our Team Members to ask if you want a bag and to follow the “one napkin per item purchased” guideline.
We’re committed to using packaging that is as sustainable as possible. All our packaging must be made from accredited sustainable sources or recycled material, and must also be fully recyclable. It's worth bearing in mind that being 'fully recyclable' very much depends on the facilities that are available in your area. Unfortunately this varies hugely across the country – what one local authority is prepared to recycle differs to another.
Our sandwich 'bio-box' is fully recyclable and we were the first retailer to move from plastic sandwich boxes to cardboard in the 1990s.
We removed our range of biodegradable PLA (cornstarch) Pret Pots way back in 2007. Biodegradable and compostable packaging is no doubt the best way forward, but PLA packaging will unfortunately remain an impractical solution until the UK provides adequate composting sites and collection services. Most PLA packaging ends up in landfill never properly degrading, and if PLA gets into the plastic recycling stream it acts as a contaminant. For now, we'll keep using our recyclable plastic pots.
We work with our suppliers to reduce ingredient packaging wherever we can. Over the last few years we’ve reduced the materials used across a number of key packaging items. Redesigning our baguette bags reduced the material used by 8.27 tonnes a year for instance, and redesigning our Pure Pret bottles saved 28,000kg of plastic. In 2010 we reduced the amount of plastic used in our Pret Still range by 12%, and in 2011 we saved 2.8 tonnes of plastic by removing the lids on some of our fruit pot products.
After several prototypes, numerous setbacks and no end of testing, the vast majority of Pret shops now have in-store recycling facilities and are able to compost their organic waste. It wasn’t easy to reach this point but – fingers crossed – we think we've found a solution in the form of 'co-mingled' recycling. In short, all of our product packaging can be placed in a single bin ready for sorting at the recycling plant later. We only need to separate food from the rest of the packaging; this keeps it simple and ensures we can divert as much waste as possible from landfill.
Since we launched our recycling scheme back in 2008 we’ve steadily been improving our diversion rates month-on-month. In London* we’re diverting 100% of our waste from landfill, in regional shops we’re diverting approximately 70% from landfill, and in managed estate units we divert around 80% from landfill. We do this by utilising a combination of recycling, composting and refuse derived fuel facilities. There’re challenges to finding appropriate composting or refuse derived fuel facilities outside of London, but we’re working on it!
Believe it or not, 80% of Pret food (and packaging) is taken away by our customers. We want to encourage recycling outside of Pret too and welcome the office-based recycling scheme operated by Closed Loop London (www.closedlooplondon.co.uk), which encourages customers to recycle in their workplace (where many eat their lunch).
For now, if you 'take away' from Pret, and depending on facilities in your area, you can easily recycle the majority of Pret packaging yourself. We’d advise you to keep the packaging as clean as possible and rinse the packaging if need be.
If your waste collector does not operate co-mingled recycling, separate the materials as directed.The website www.recycle-more.co.uk might help
*non managed estate shops only (that’s over 120 units)