Materials

M&S launches eco-bag to tackle poverty and plastic waste

Marks & Spencer has launched a new type of eco-shopping bag that aims to prevent waste and reduce poverty for those living in Haiti and the Philippines.

The reusable bag is made from 75 per cent Social Plastic, a material made from plastic waste that has been collected and recycled by Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that seeks to prevent ocean plastic pollution.M&S launches eco-bag to tackle poverty and plastic waste

The initiative aims to incentivise residents living in highly-polluted parts of the world to collect the plastic waste and take it to a nearby recycling centre in exchange for a wage. 36 recycling centres have been set up in Haiti and the Philippines, two areas that are particularly affected by littered plastic waste. Collectors can also exchange plastic waste for blockchain digital tokens that can be used to buy everyday essentials, such as food, water, cooking stoves and fuel.

In the capital of the Philippines, Manila, recycling centres sort the plastic by type and colour before shredding it. These flakes are then exported to Vietnam, where the M&S eco-bag is made.

Plastic Bank aims to create positive environmental and social impact by monetising waste, preventing plastic from entering the oceans whilst also reducing poverty. Since opening its first centre in Haiti in 2014, Plastic Bank has recycled the equivalent of over 100 million plastic bottles.

With backing from large retailers such as M&S, Plastic Bank hopes to be able to expand the initiative across to other regions.

David Katz, CEO of Plastic Bank, said: “M&S has powerfully responded to customer demand for sustainable products and created an immediate impact on the lives of our collectors.

“The M&S team has been incredibly committed to our partnership and thanks to their support, Plastic Bank is empowered to stop more ocean plastic, help more people out of poverty and make responsible production the standard for businesses everywhere. We couldn’t be more pleased to start our journey together.”

For M&S this is one step in a broader plan to tackle plastic waste, following on from its role as a signatory in the UK Plastics Pact to transform the plastic industry by 2025. It also announced plans to completely scrap single-use plastic bags in its stores by spring 2019.

Natalie Tate, Product Developer at M&S said: “With more plastic than fish predicted to be in the ocean by 2050, it’s vital that we all take action to minimise plastic waste. We’re reducing the amount of plastic we use as a business and developing smart ways to help our customers reduce the amount of plastic they use.”

The shopping bag has been launched as part of M&S’ Plastics Plan, removing 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging in less than a year and replacing the 75 million pieces of plastic cutlery, which it currently gives out in its stores with FSC certified wood alternatives.

M&S is not the only supermarket attempting to change its attitude towards the bags it provides. Co-op recently revealed plans to remove single-use plastic bags from its stores as well, hoping to introduce compostable plastic bags in its place, whilst the UK Government is considering increasing the nationwide five pence plastic bag charge to 10 pence.

The M&S bag costs £1.30 and will be available across the UK stores from 6 November. To find out more, check out the Plastic Bank website.

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