M&S unveils sustainable alternative to wire clips

Marks and Spencer (M&S) has rolled out a recyclable alternative to the nemesis of millions of children on Christmas morning - the fiddly plastic wires used in toy packaging.

The company’s new ‘PaperTies’ lock the product in place but can be easily torn by the customer. Unlike the commonly-used plastic and metal ties, the 100% FSC-certified PaperTies can be thrown in kerbside paper recycling bins.

M&S head of technical packaging Roger Wright said: “By utilising the mechanical strength of the FibreForm material from BillerudKorsnäs, the paper ties have passed our transit trials, and crucially are able to be torn by hand across the tie under the locking ‘head’.

“We partnered with one of M&S key partner printers and our toy factories to trial and refine the idea ahead of the launch and we have succeeded in making a cost effective, more environmentally friendly alternative, which will delight our customers when they open the box.”

Waste reduction

Designed in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, the ties are made from a special 310gsm BillerudKorsnäs FibreForm material, which can withstand the packaging and transportation process. They can currently be found on a number of toys in-store and will be rolled out to other toys in the coming months. 

Speaking of the potential to implement the new ties throughout the rest of company, a spokesperson for M&S told edie that packaging team is currently working on developing other options and versions of the ties to fit across other product ranges, and plans to replace all plastic and wire ties ‘where practically possible’.

The spokesperson wouldn’t go into specifics on costs, but revealed the new PaperTies are priced ‘similar to plastic or metal ties’. They also noted that it is still too early to put a figure on the potential waste reduction benefits of ther new ties.

Patent pending

Interestingly, M&S have filed a patent for the PaperTies, with the company spokesperson confirming: “We have applied for a patent with the help of Sheffield Hallam University as we believe great innovation should be recognised. We are very keen for other retailers to use the ties, they would just need to apply for a licence to do so.” 

John Kirkby, creative director of Design Futures at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Our design team devised the initial concept for the ties as a direct response to the frustration caused by hard to open toy packaging. We identified a new paper material that is very strong and used it to create a user focused way of holding products in packs.

“Not only is the product much easier to open but the material is better for the environment. It is very exciting to see the team at M&S develop our initial idea and take it to market”.

The PaperTies are one of a range of projects that M&S is working on as part of the company’s Plan A ambitions to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

Last week, the Plan A project saw 24,000 solar panels installed on the roof of an M&S distribution centre in Castle Donington

Brad Allen

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