As part of efforts to
reduce plastic in the supply chain, M&S is trialling its first plastic-free
loose fruit and vegetable department at its Tolworth store.
As well as ditching the
packaging, M&S has introduced trained greengrocers, who will be on hand to
offer customers valuable advice as they select from two aisles of fruit and
vegetables free of plastic packaging. The range not only includes hard fruit and
veg like potatoes and bananas, but also more perishable items such as soft
fruits and berries, which will be retailed in compostable punnets, and best
before date labels have been removed.
Louise Nicholls, Head of
Food Sustainability, said, “We’re proud to launch a series of market-leading
initiatives to help our customers take home less plastic. “Our trial at
Tolworth is an important milestone in our plastic reduction journey and
bringing back the traditional greengrocer will play a key part in educating our
customers. Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future using tangible
insights from the Tolworth store trial.”
M&S has committed to
launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives
to plastic in every UK store, which could save 580 tonnes of plastic waste over
two years alone. The plan will also involve replacing plastic produce bags with
paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favour of eco-friendly
alternatives. M&S Senior Packaging Technologist Kevin Vyse spoke at the
recent UK Brassica & Leafy Salad Conference which will be reported in the
March issue of The
wholesalers say that they are benefitting as consumers shun plastics and
packaging following the television series Blue Planet II.
According to reports,
so-called millennials are looking for more sustainably produced produce and
want more information about what they are buying. “We’ve definitely seen an
increase in millennials coming to buy fruit and veg at the market,” said David
Matchett, development manager at Borough Market in London. “They want to
connect with their food and see where it comes from – greengrocers and markets
can help with that. Millennials are interested in different sustainable diets
so they come to ask our traders about it and can get informed. They really care
about climate change and come here because we use minimal packaging.
“Food of a higher value is
appreciated by this generation who are becoming more aware – you need personal
contact with people who know about the food at the greengrocers or the market.”
Greengrocer Grant Fox, of Seasons of England, said, “We have loads of young customers. I would say (millennials) care about seasonal produce and their carbon footprint. 90 per cent of our plants aren’t wrapped in plastic – they’re all loose.”
The House of Commons
debated whether supermarkets should have to offer fruit and vegetables which
are not wrapped in plastic, following an online petition which managed to gain
Under the rules of the
Government’s petition, any campaign which achieves more than 100,000 signatures
is eligible for debate by MPs. The debate was opened by Steve Double MP, a
member of the Petitions Committee.
Prior to the debate, the
Government had responded to the petition saying, ‘We are working with retailers
and the Waste and Resources Action Programme to explore the potential for the
introduction of plastic-free initiatives in supermarkets in which fresh food is
sold loose, adding, ‘Packaging has an important and positive role to play in
reducing product damage, increasing shelf-life, and reducing food waste.’
However, during the debate,
Sandy Martin MP argued that plastic packaging could be counterproductive:
“Plastic packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables may contribute to food waste:
by offering a fixed packaged quantity, people may be induced to buy more than
they need, as the hon. Member for Henley mentioned. Also, the amount of waste
may be disguised. Rather than damaged food being thrown away by the
supermarket, the customer may well find damaged fruit or vegetables inside the
plastic packaging and then throw them away in the household. Also, I question
whether most fresh fruit and vegetables are given an enhanced shelf life by
being wrapped in plastic.”
According to a new survey of smaller retailers by card payment services company Payment Sense, sales of goods packaged in plastic, and fruit and vegetables in particular, have declined over the last six months.
The move comes as consumers have become increasingly concerned by the environmental effects of plastic waste around the world, which have been highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet and forthcoming Drowning in Plastic programmes.
More than half of the 291 retailers surveyed (54 per cent) in July 2018 said that they had seen a fall in sales, with fruit juice and bottled water sales also suffering. Almost half (49 per cent) of the retailers surveyed also said more customers had requested products without packaging over the last six months.
Guy Moreve, chief marketing officer at Payment Sense, said, “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers… Movements like the UK Plastics Pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”
Photo Caption: Small retailers say that consumers are shunning fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.