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M&S trials plastic-free produce as it accelerates its plastic reduction plans

The supermarket plans to eliminate most of this plastic packaging within three years. Photo: David Pearson/REX/Shutterstock

Marks & Spencer is reducing the amount of plastic it uses by launching a range of loose fruit and vegetables completely free of plastic packaging in a trial at its Tolworth store, beginning on Wednesday.

The three-month trial will be the springboard for a long-term plastic reduction strategy which supports the supermarket’s goal of becoming zero-waste by 2025. The range includes not just hard fruit and vegetables, such as potatoes and bananas, but more perishable items like soft fruits and berries, which are being sold in compostable punnets.

M&S has also introduced trained greengrocers who will be on hand to offer customers advice as they select from two isles of plastic-free produce. On top of helping customers pick and weigh their products, it said the greengrocers will be able to provide tips on how best to prevent food waste at home, as it has removed “best before” labels from fresh fruit and vegetables as part of its trial.

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Alongside the initiative at Tolworth, M&S said it has committed to launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic waste over the next two years. It plans to replace plastic produce bags with paper ones and phase out plastic barcode stickers in favour of eco-friendly alternatives.

The supermarket has already phased out 75 million pieces of plastic cutlery given out in stores each year and replaced two million straws with paper alternatives as part of its plastic plan, which aims to remove 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging by spring 2019. It said all of its packaging will be “widely recyclable” by 2022 in a bid to help customers recycle more.

Louise Nicholls, head of food sustainability at M&S, said: “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.

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“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.”