Marks & Spencer (M&S), London, launched over 90 lines of loose fruits and vegetables completely free of plastic packaging in a trial at its Tolworth, London, store in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic it uses. The range includes hard fruit and vegetables like potatoes and bananas as well as more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries, which will be sold in compostable punnets.

To support the trial, M&S introduced trained greengrocers who will be on hand to help customers select from two aisles of fruit and vegetables free of plastic packaging. The greengrocers will also provide tips on how best to preserve fresh produce and prevent food waste at home, as M&S removed “best before” date labels from fresh fruit and vegetables as part of the store trial.

M&S also committed to launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK store, which could save 580 tons of plastic waste over two years. The plan will involve replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favor of eco-friendly alternatives.

“We’re proud to launch a series of market-leading initiatives to help our customers take home less plastic. We know our customers want to play their part in cutting out plastic, while as a business, our goal is to become zero-waste by 2025. That’s why we’re working hard to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use without compromising on food quality and contributing to waste,” says Louise Nicholls, head of food sustainability. “Our trial at Tolworth is an important milestone in our plastic reduction journey, and bringing back the traditional greengrocer will play a key part in educating our customers. Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future using tangible insights from the Tolworth store trial.”

The 3-month trial at Tolworth will be the springboard for M&S’s long-term plastic reduction strategy, which is to become a zero-waste business by 2025. For instance,

  • M&S is committed to only using plastic in its business where there is a clear and demonstrable benefit of doing so.
  • The retailer has committed to removing over 1,000 tons of plastic packaging by the spring, which includes designing plastic out, replacing it with planet-friendly alternatives and only using recyclable packaging.
  • M&S already phased out 75 million pieces of plastic cutlery given out in its stores each year, and replaced 2 million straws with paper alternatives.
  • By 2022, all M&S product packaging in the UK will be “widely recyclable.”
  • M&S started phasing out black plastic from products such as ready meals and fruits and vegetables and will extend this to fish, meat and poultry later this year.