Marks and Spencer boosts its sustainability drive with adoption of paper packaging

UK – Marks and Spencer (M&S) has replaced its existing stock of plastic bags for life with more ecologically friendly paper carriers – in a bid to reduce the impact it has on the environment.

M&S said the new Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper bags are now available in every single one of its UK outlets.

The retailer, which has more than 1,000 stores across the UK, began a trial of the change at 10 of its shops in January.

The chain has worked with the University of Sheffield to develop a bag that is made using renewable energy, as paper is more energy-intensive to produce than plastic.

Paper bags also weigh more than plastic; this means transportation requires more energy, adding to their carbon footprint, according to research.

Marks & Spencer corporate affairs director, Victoria McKenzie-Gould, revealed the move in a blog post, saying the company hoped it would help to avoid “the mountain of plastic bags” that can build up in cupboards at home.

She said: “For the vast majority who already reuse their bags, which remains the most sustainable option, not a lot will change.

“But on the odd occasion when we all need to reach for one more bag, we’re pleased to be offering a more sustainable option for customers.”

The new bags also fold easily into a backpack, are water resistant and are expected to be able to be used more than 100 times, according to the blog post.

Steps taken by other retailers

M&S is not the first retailer to move to offering paper bags in place of plastic.

Boots announced in 2019 that it would phase out all plastic bags by the following year, replacing them with plastic.

According to the retailer, the move would remove 900 tonnes of plastic from store operations as a result.

Managing director Seb James at the time said: “Plastic waste is undoubtedly one of the most important issues around the world today, with TV shows like Blue Planet highlighting the effects of plastic pollution.”

Meanwhile, in 2021, Morrisons announced plans to ditch all its plastic “bags for life” following evidence that they are being used once and thrown away.

The retailer later introduced paper bags only across all its 494 stores saving 90m plastic bags being used annually, the equivalent of 3,510 tonnes of plastic per year, the company said.

Recent figures show the number of single-use plastic bags distributed by the big supermarkets in England has fallen more than 95% since the 5p charge was introduced in 2015.

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