After trialling the replacement of blue, green, and red caps on its own brand HDPE milk bottles with clear caps earlier this year, Waitrose has announced that it will make the move permanent in all stores with immediate effect.

Waitrose partnered with Müller to trial colourless caps for milk bottles in April 2022. While HDPE milk bottles are widely recycled, the coloured caps cannot currently be recycled back into food-grade packaging, which the companies cited as the reason behind the transition. 

The colourless caps will now be a permanent feature on Essential Waitrose milk bottles in all 331 Waitrose shops, with the change to be implemented with immediate effect.

Waitrose says that the label artwork on Essential Waitrose milk bottles with colourless caps has been redesigned to add more colour and assist customers in selecting their milk of choice in store. Research from Müller apparently found that just over half of shoppers use bottle cap colour to choose their milk in-store, while others used label colours or signage.

The colourless caps will be featured on Essential Waitrose milk bottles that account for approximately 44% of the retailer’s milk sales, according to Waitrose. The retailer is planning to roll out the colourless caps more widely across the Waitrose own label milk range next year.

Müller, Waitrose’s partner on the scheme, will produce the milk bottles with colourless caps in-house. The bottles are reportedly 100% recyclable and contain up to 40% food-grade recycled material.

Waitrose adds that demand for rHDPE currently outstrips supply. The company says that introducing colourless caps will allow them to be recycled alongside HDPE bottles in a ‘closed loop’ system, enabling their reuse as food-grade recycled content.

According to Waitrose, the move to colourless caps for its milk bottles could increase the amount of HDPE available to the food sector by 1560 tonnes per year.

Lisa Oaten, milk buyer at Waitrose, comments: “Milk is one of our best-selling products, so to be able to bring this packaging improvement to an everyday essential across all of our stores is fantastic.

“Partner and customer feedback during the trial has been overwhelmingly positive and this national rollout will help us achieve our goal of making more of the plastic we use circular and fit to be repurposed time and time again.”