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In a year when our customers, colleagues and communities have faced into huge uncertainty and upheaval in the way we live and work, it’s empowering to see positive change when it comes to environmental action. 

Now in its 17th year, Recycle Week is a celebration of recycling, organised by WRAP under the Recycle Now brand. The theme for Recycle Week 2020 is to thank the nation for continuing to recycle despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented, under the banner 'Together - We Recycle'. 

Throughout this year at M&S, we’ve rightly pressed on with our plastic reduction and recyclability commitments as planned, because we know now more than ever, trust is front of mind for our customers and we want to take action on the issues they care about most—including plastic. 

Over the last year, we’ve been working hard to reduce our use of plastic, and help our customers to reuse and recycle.

Reduce: 2,000 tonnes lighter

Our absolute top priority at M&S is to reduce our use of plastic. We’re constantly testing and learning where we can remove or reduce plastic packaging without affecting the quality of our products or contributing to waste. From using 25% less plastic in our prepared fruit pots to starting to phase it out of our bedding ranges in place of card bands, this year we’ve continued to focus on finding new ways to package our products with far less plastic.

Altogether, it’s having a big impact. We’ve removed over 2,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from across our business in the last two years alone, and we’re continuing to accelerate our plan. It’s a great start, but we want to go even harder to make sure we’re only using plastic where it’s absolutely necessary.

Reuse: A tote-ally circular solution

If we can’t remove plastic, we’re doing all we can to encourage our customers to reuse. For example, we know carrier bags can be challenging when they’re not used in a circular way, so we now only offer Bags for Life made from 100% recycled plastic in our Foodhalls. We wanted to do more to help our customers to remember to reuse, so this Summer, we offered reusable tote bags to our seven million customers signed up to our Sparks loyalty scheme. It’s already helping to make a difference.

We’ve also introduced new initiatives over the last 12 months including our Fill Your Own stations at M&S Hedge End and Manchester, which enables customers to buy packaging-free grocery staples like cereals, pasta, coffee and confectionary in their own reusable containers. With many lines outselling the packaged versions, it’s proving extremely popular with our customers, and we’ll continue learning from these trials to better understand how our customers want to shop refillables.

Recycle: No more black plastic

A crucial part of our plastics plan is making sure 100% of our packaging is widely recycled by 2022 so it’s easier for our customers to recycle and play their part. 

As we work towards that goal, we’ve taken huge strides this year to completely stop using black plastic in our food production lines. We’re nearly out of polystyrene too, with products like our pizzas supported with a card base instead. We also recently switched all our bakery packaging to widely recycled paper.

To make recycling easier, we’ve been working closely with our suppliers to redesign some of our existing packaging. An example is launching market-first sandwich packs with 40% less plastic and easy to peel glue, so it’s easier for recyclers to process. Crucially, we’ve added messaging to our sandwich packs to engage customers on the importance of recycling and their role to play.

Whilst we work through some of our biggest recyclability challenges, we’re continuing to help customers return difficult to recycle packaging through schemes like our hanger reuse programme for broken or unwanted hangers and our plastic take-back for difficult to recycle packaging. It’s all making a difference to give old plastic a new purpose and support a circular economy.

This Recycle Week, we want to thank our customers for continuing to recycle. 

We know as a business we still have work to do as part of our plastics plan, but we can’t do it all alone. We need to keep sparking change together with our suppliers, customers and communities for a more sustainable future.

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