M&S slashes packaging sizes to maintain progress to waste goal

M&S slashes packaging sizes to maintain progress to waste goal
Packaging for M&S's snack range is being cut down to save on material
The amount of packaging on over 140 of Marks and Spencer’s best-selling products has been slashed by the retailer, in an attempt to continue progress to a 2020 waste goal.

The move, part of M&S’s Project Thin Air, will save around 75 tonnes of packaging currently used for the store’s own-brand snacking range being saved each year – the carbon equivalent of removing 152 lorries from the road in 2017.

Among the changes made as part of the light weighting project is a 37 per cent reduction in pack size in the retailer’s popcorn range, with the amount of popcorn in each pack remaining the same but ‘thin air’ within the pack being removed. Across its crisp range, meanwhile, M&S is using 20 per cent less plastic after adopting a new thinner film.

“We’ve been working on this project for over a year and are really pleased with the results,” said M&S Packaging Technologist Laura Fernandez. “M&S has led the way in packaging reduction, and this latest project has allowed us to dramatically reduce packaging across our snacks. We very much see this as the start of a much bigger piece of work and hope to bring equally impressive savings to other areas of the business too.”

Last month the retailer became the first in the UK to laser-print barcodes on the skin of avocados. By putting labels directly onto the fruit’s hard skin, M&S reckons it will save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue every year, with the method also proving more reliable as stickers can fall off the wrinkly cases. More fruit may follow in the laser-etched range in time.

M&S slashes packaging sizes to maintain progress to waste goal
Annual report reveals slight rise in waste figures

M&S’s annual report for 2016/17 revealed that its UK and Ireland operations produced 83,000 tonnes in store, office and warehouse waste across the year, none of which went to landfill. This figures constitutes a 3.5 per cent increase on 2015/16, but is 28 per cent lower than in 2008/09, when the store’s Plan A programme was established.

Although M&S does not publically publish its food waste arisings in detail, due to the greater proportion of chilled products in comparison with other major supermarkets, it has set a target of reducing food waste in UK stores by 20 per cent per square foot from 2013/14 levels.

In 2016/17, M&S generated 4.06 tonnes per 1,000 square foot of food salesfloor, similar to last year (4.03) and four per cent lower than 2013/14. In order to achieve its goal, M&S will have to hit 3.38 tonnes by 2019/20.

All food waste generated by the store is processed using anaerobic digestion at locations certified to PAS 110 – a standard that guarantees that resulting digestate is safe to use.

M&S launches nationwide food waste scheme
Tina Magee from the Upper Horfield Community Trust collects surplus food from M&S Cribbs Causeway

In addition to its food waste reduction plans, M&S redistributed 757 tonnes of surplus food to nearly 600 charities in 2016/17, and recently announced that it planned to extend its nationwide redistribution programme, carried out in partnership with social platform Neighbourly, to include chilled food.

Last month, M&S launched the next stage of its Plan A sustainability programme, featuring expanded targets and goals, including halving food waste by 2025 and ensuring all packaging is ‘widely recyclable’ by 2022.

“Marks & Spencer has been at the forefront of social change for 133 years and we’re determined to play a leading role in the years ahead,” said M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe. “Plan A 2025 will help us build a sustainable future by helping our customers live healthier lives, supporting the communities they live in and we source from and looking after the planet we all share.”

M&S’s Plan A report 2017 can be read and downloaded from the retailer’s website.

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