The material, which will replace conventional polyethylene, contains an additive biodegrade introduced during the manufacturing process which will break down with or without oxygen, heat or light, in 5-15 years – meaning it will still degrade even if sent to landfill.

John Lewis packaging design & production manager Mark Gallen said the company had been researching more sustainable packaging materials with its suppliers, and believes this is a ground-breaking development.

“We have already replaced PVC packaging with recyclable polyethylene … while it is possible to recycle traditional plastic bags at some recycling centres, it is less common to be able to recycle this type of plastic at kerbside collection points meaning that most of it is thrown in the bin,” he commented.

“Until recycling facilities are more widely available, most people will throw the packaging away. We know that our customers want to reduce their environmental impact, and this new material makes it easy for them to do this.”

The retailer plans to roll out the packaging across other product lines including own-brand ready-made curtains next year. Following an initial six months of exclusive use, it will then make the technology behind the new packaging available to other retailers.

John Lewis takes accountability for its waste arisings very seriously. Last month its recycling & waste operations manager Mike Walters told edie that the company was now focusing on end destination and keeping secondary materials in the UK wherever possible.

“To have a clear waste strategy we need to have control over what happens to it,” he said. “The general view out there seems to be once you pass it on, it’s no longer your waste. I can’t buy into that.”

This means that while the business aspires to zero waste, its current diversion target stands at 95% by the end of 2013, with 100% diversion likely not to be achieved until 2020.

Maxine Perella

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