M&S launches reusable container discounts to cut plastics waste

M&S has 23 Market Place counters across the UK

Under the scheme, customers will be given a 25p discount off each meal they purchase from M&S Market Place counters if they bring their own reusable container of any material. These counters offer both hot and cold lunch-to-go options, including salads and rotisserie chicken, usually served in fully recyclable cardboard or plastic containers.

In order to further encourage shoppers to make the switch, the retailer will begin stocking clip-closure storage containers at the counter for £4 each.

M&S claims that around 70,000 customers make a purchase from its 23 UK Market Place counters evert week, meaning that the potential reduction in single-use packaging from the discount scheme is sizeable.

“Our priority is to reduce single-use packaging and ensure any we do use can be reused or recycled, as we work towards our 2022 target for all our packaging to be widely recyclable,” M&S’s director of food technology Paul Willgoss said.

“Food-to-go is a growing market, so finding solutions in this space is an important part of our wider plan.”

Set as part of its Plan A sustainability strategy, M&S’s 2022 ambition for plastics packaging is 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 and removing plastics from products such as clothing, cotton buds and coffee pods. 

Refill revolution

While other retail giants, including Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, now allow shoppers to bring reusable containers to their deli, meat and fish counters, M&S claims it is the first large UK supermarket to offer a discount.

M&S’s decision to launch the incentive follows the implementation of a 25p discounts for customers bringing reusable cups to its in-store café’s, and its plastic cutlery phase-out.

It also comes as more and more retailers and consumer goods brands are beginning to offer refill models for the first time – or to upscale their existing offerings in this space – amid concerns that recyclability is now “table stakes” for sustainable business.

Waitrose & Partners, for example, is currently trialling packaging-free refill options for hundreds of its own-brand lines at its Botley Road store in Oxford. Elsewhere, 24 companies are supporting  TerraCycle’s new “Loop” platform, whereby businesses provide product refills while retaining ownership of their reusable packaging. Early supporters of the platform’s initial launch in New York and Paris include Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and PepsiCo, with Tesco set to spearhead a UK launch this autumn. 

But as refill models begin to take hold in the corporate space, it’s worth noting that SMEs have been successfully using them for several years – particularly food-to-go outlets and grocery shops.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie