UK’s M&S rolls out reduced packaging initiative

British fashion retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) has stepped up its commitment to reduce its use of plastic packaging by rolling out a new Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) click and collect initiative to 251 of its stores. M&S claims to be the first large retailer to adopt this approach which will save 10 million units of plastic annually.

The initiative takes away the need for the traditional plastic carrier across online orders that are picked and packed at the collection store by asking customers to bring their own bag. The roll-out follows a successful trial at 16 M&S stores with customers reminded at point of checkout to bring their own bag when coming into the store to collect an order placed online; customers are then reminded again when notified that their order is ready to be collected, the retailer said in a press release.

Over the course of seven months, 39,347 orders were fulfilled this way, removing over 109,000 units of plastic and customers praising the approach as ‘simple and straightforward’ and an easy way to help them reduce their own plastic consumption.

More than 60 per cent of customers opt for click and collect—that’s over 15 million orders annually and of those orders, around 25 per cent are picked and packed in the customer’s local store—the equivalent of four million parcels. Over the next few months, all click and collect orders that are picked and packed at the customers local collection store will be provided to the customer without a plastic carrier—with the ambition to expand the initiative to all click and collect orders in the longer term.

“Using our stores to fulfil click and collect orders continues to grow and we want to use this as a channel to encourage a behaviour change that helps to reduce single use plastic consumption. During trial phase, we had great feedback from customers as they saw it as a simple action that, collectively, can make a big difference,” said Stephen Langford, director of the M&S website.

Whilst waiting for customer collection, orders are stored and protected in a reusable bag made from 100 per cent recycled materials. The initiative is one of the many ways M&S is moving towards its target of removing 75 million units of plastic packaging in its clothing and home business.

Among these packaging solutions, the green bag used to package products is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and is fully recyclable via M&S’ plastic takeback scheme in store—which accepts all types of plastic that some local authorities will not collect. There has been a switch to paper tape—instead of plastic—on cardboard boxes—saving 2,781,000 metres annually. Moreover, 100 per cent recyclable cardboard boxes are being used that can be put in at-home recycling bins. Mobile-friendly paperless customer returns and receipts will be saving 205 tonnes of paper every year.