Every year, over 10 million tonnes of packaging is placed on the UK market according to latest Government figures. About half this amount goes to households, where it accounts for about 20% of the waste stream.
We are passionate about offering a wide range of safe, high quality products, and recognise packaging and containers play an important role in helping to deliver this to our customers. We also know that although packaging is only a small fraction of the overall waste that is generated, it’s very visible and in a world of scarce resources it attracts a lot of stakeholder attention.
Packaging is a complicated issue, and it can of course present significant issues. For instance, domestic packaging often finds its way into natural habitats on land, at sea and in rivers. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council
80% of marine litter originates on land, and most of this is plastic, which poses risks to marine life. Having said this, we would not be able to live the way we do today without packaging as we wouldn’t be able to get products to the consumer. It also prolongs the life of food and helps prevent waste. In fact, the Government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging
suggests that food waste has at least ten times the environmental impact of packaging waste and that’s before taking account of the impact of methane from decayed food.
Commitments and targets
We want to lead our sector in sustainable production and consumption, offering our customers the good value, high quality products and services that they expect from us while respecting our planetary boundaries and need for social equity.
We are committed to sending zero waste to landfill from our operations and construction activities in the UK and Republic of Ireland. We also work across our value chain and take action on key areas of waste such as packaging. We support the transition to a sustainable circular economy and will prioritise business model innovation and put circular ways of working into practice.
We want our packaging and hardware to be right for our customers, right for our brand, and right for our products. We want to ensure our products remain protected, hygienic and fresher for longer to help minimise food waste. At the same time, we want to be as resource efficient as possible and use materials from the most sustainable sources, which in turn can be reused or recycled.
In this context we use materials to serve two broad purposes:
|Packaging ||Materials for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and preservation of products. Most packaging will typically be discarded, although it can have an after-use. We currently handle around 60,000 tonnes of packaging material each year – a third of which is glass. We also use wood-derived materials such as paper and card, metal, and plastics like PET, PE, and small amounts of polystyrene. |
|Hardware||Items with an intended or perceived after-use or that provide added value to a product. For example, containers for flowers and plants such as ceramics, baskets, and vases, as well as containers for food such as ceramics, wooden gift boxes, biscuit tins and acrylic bowls and add-ons like ribbons or bows. Hardware also includes toys and gift items such as cheese knives and boards. Ceramics, metal, paper and board and glass make up the majority of materials used by volume.|
Our Technical Terms of Trade
are supported by specific policies and Codes of Practice (which set out our requirements in detail for a particular topic) and Guidelines (which are advisory in nature). These can be found on Connect – our online Quality Management System – and should be read alongside our Terms of Trade. Find out more about our approach to supplier management
and product standards
We believe that both voluntary and regulatory actions are important. For example, during the 1990s we seconded a senior manager to help draft the UK’s packaging waste regulations. Since the introduction of this legislation the recycling and recovery of packaging materials in the UK has improved from less than 30% to over 70%.
Over the years we’ve achieved a number of significant packaging and hardware successes too including some industry firsts. For example, we were the first UK retailer to introduce reusable food transit packaging systems in the late 1960s and over 70% of our food is now transported in this way saving around 20,000 units of single trip packaging each year. We were also the first to launch and deliver on pack recycling messaging on our food packaging in the UK.
Our approach to packaging and hardware focuses on:
Ensuring the safety and integrity of raw materials
Reducing the overall impact of packaging and hardware
Ensuring our packaging is right for our consumers
Working with others
Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.
We’ve already done a lot to improve our packaging sustainability credentials, but we know there’s much more to do. And we don’t pretend to have all the answers. That’s why we welcome the views of stakeholders who can help us improve our approach to packaging. You can share your views or open dialogue with us at PlanA@marks-and-spencer.com