Marks & Spencer is to start selling more than 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables free of all plastic packaging, in a trial that will put the traditional greengrocer back on the shop floor and revive the use of paper bags.
As the retailer steps up its drive to reduce plastics, shoppers at its store in Tolworth, south-west London, will be able to pick their own loose produce displayed in two separate aisles.
Trained greengrocers will be on hand to help customers and offer tips on how to keep fresh produce and prevent food waste at home.
As part of the trial M&S has also removed best before date labels from fresh fruit and veg. Shoppers will be offered more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries in compostable punnets.
M&S has also committed to introducing additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK store, which it says could reduce plastic waste by 580 tonnes over two years. The plan will involve replacing plastic produce bags with paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers.
Details of the new trial were revealed after the struggling high street chain announced the locations of 17 more stores closing as part of its plan to shut down one in three of its main branches – those selling clothing, homewares and food.
Louise Nicholls, the head of food sustainability at M&S, said: “We know our customers want to play their part in cutting out plastic, while as a business our goal is to become zero-waste by 2025.”
She described the Tolworth trial as “an important milestone in our plastic reduction journey”.
The frozen food specialist Iceland also carried out a trial to see whether its shoppers would pay 10p for a paper bag as an alternative to single use plastic bags.
The initiative from M&S follows its decision to phase out plastic cutlery and replace 2m straws with paper alternatives. Its plastics plan aims to have removed 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging by this spring. It has pledged that all its packaging will be “widely recycled” by 2022.