Marks and Spencer (M&S) will start phasing out plastic cutlery across its in-store cafés next month in a move it claims will remove 75 million pieces of plastic from its waste stream annually.
The phase-out will begin 1 September, with M&S set to replace plastic knives, forks and spoons with wooden alternatives. It builds on plans to replace plastic straws with biodegradable paper alternatives in cafes.
Once the ban is fully implemented in the chain’s 979 stores, M&S estimates that its waste output will be reduced by two million plastic straws and 75 million pieces of plastic cutlery each year.
“We’re passionate about cutting out the unnecessary use of plastic and helping our customers reuse and recycle more,” M&S’ director of sustainable business Mike Barry said.
“Replacing the 75 million pieces of plastic cutlery we give out every year in our stores with Forest Stewardship Council-certified wooden alternatives is just one of the steps we’re taking to remove single-use plastics from our business.”
The phase-out will only apply to M&S’s cafés, and the chain will still sell plastic straws and cutlery in multipacks in its supermarket aisles. However, the company has pledged to begin replacing these with biodegradable bamboo and paper alternatives in early 2019.
The move from M&S comes as the company strives towards a 2022 target of ensuring that all plastic packaging that could end up with customers will be “widely recycled”. As part of its aim, the retailer is planning to develop one recyclable plastic polymer for use across all of its plastic packaging.
As for phase-outs, M&S recently stopped putting plastic sleeves on its range of cashmere jumpers, stopped using tea bags containing plastics and phased out non-recyclable coffee pods in its cafes. It is also a long-standing advocate for plastic-free cotton buds.
In a bid to drive change outside of its own operations, M&S has collaborated with other big-name companies across the retail and food and drink sectors to call for policy reforms aimed at boosting plastic recycling rates. Its recommendations include a call for the government to consider measures such as virgin material taxes and tax relief on recycled plastics to create markets for secondary materials.
Additionally, the company recently partnered with recycling and packaging production firm Viridor, as well as rival firms Sainsbury’s and Tesco, to introduce a solution for hard-to-recycle black plastic food packaging.
M&S’s Barry recently told edie how mounting consumer pressures have helped to accelerate progress towards delivering sustainable products and packaging. You can read the interview in full here.