Single-use plastic bags are steadily being ditched around the globe, with Tanzania the latest in a list of 91 to bring in some form of plastic bag ban.

In another move away from plastic, some supermarkets are experimenting with selling food without any packaging at all. For 11 weeks, one supermarket of the British chain Waitrose will do just that - encouraging customers to bring their own containers to fill up on everything from beer to frozen fruit.

Waitrose is running the pilot scheme at its Oxford branch until August 18, to test concepts that the retailer says could "save thousands of tonnes of packaging and plastic".

The Refill Zones offer 28 products including pasta, rice and grains, as well as beer, wine and coffee.

Image: Waitrose & Partners

Customers weigh their empty container on a scale and print a ticket with a barcode. Once they have filled it with the chosen product, the customer scans the barcode and weighs the container again - and a second ticket is issued, with the price of the product minus the weight of the container.

Customers can also refill reusable containers of household cleaning fluids - with the Ecover brand of detergent and washing up liquid priced £1 ($1.27) cheaper than the bottled versions.

“This test will take our efforts to a whole new level as we help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way,” says Tor Harris, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Waitrose & Partners, which is aiming to make all of its own-brand packaging either reusable or compostable by 2023.

Growing trend

Refillable schemes are being piloted by 40 retailers worldwide according to the Ellen McArthur Foundation as pressure mounts on businesses to eliminate plastic packaging.

Globally, more than 350 companies have signed up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, part of an initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the ocean?

Our ocean covers 70% of the world’s surface and accounts for 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. We can't have a healthy future without a healthy ocean - but it's more vulnerable than ever because of climate change and pollution.

Tackling the grave threats to our ocean means working with leaders across sectors, from business to government to academia.

The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute, convenes the Friends of Ocean Action, a coalition of leaders working together to protect the seas. From a programme with the Indonesian government to cut plastic waste entering the sea to a global plan to track illegal fishing, the Friends are pushing for new solutions.

Climate change is an inextricable part of the threat to our oceans, with rising temperatures and acidification disrupting fragile ecosystems. The Forum runs a number of initiatives to support the shift to a low-carbon economy, including hosting the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, who have cut emissions in their companies by 9%.

Is your organization interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

Signatories have pledged to stop plastic waste and pollution at source by applying 'circular economy' principles and to increase recycled content in packaging to an average of 25% by 2025, compared with the current global average of just 2%.

The firms have also committed to end the use of unnecessary plastic, including PVC, single-use plastic straws and carrier bags, many as early as the end of this year. Major companies including Carrefour, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Unilever are also publishing their annual plastic packaging volumes for the first time.