Glass half full: M&S puts the green in greengrocer

Retailer ditches plastic punnets and best-before dates while Scotland gets its first plastic-free grocer. By Nick Hughes.

One month into 2019 and plastic still dominates the sustainability agenda. With the majority of initiatives focused on switching to more sustainable packaging alternatives, Marks & Spencer has taken a more retro step by introducing trained greengrocers into its Tolworth store in a trial in which the retailer will launch 90 lines of loose fruit and vegetables.

Greengrocers will be on hand to help customers pick and weigh produce ranging from hard fruit and veg such as potatoes and bananas, to more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries, which customers can take home in compostable punnets (because no plastic initiative would be complete without them!). Best-before labels have also been removed to encourage customers to rely on their senses rather than a label to decide when produce is past its best.

For those that don’t trust their nose, the greengrocers will provide tips on how best to preserve fresh produce and prevent food waste at home. M&S has also committed to launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives to plastic in every UK store, which it estimates could save 580 tonnes of plastic waste over the next two years.

On a smaller scale, but no less ambitious, January saw the opening of Scotland’s first dedicated plastic-free grocery store. Shoppers at the Refillery in Edinburgh are encouraged to bring their own containers and fill them up with store cupboard staples such as pasta, rice and cereals. Fresh produce such as eggs, fruits, vegetables and fresh bread are also on sale at the store, which prioritises ethical and eco-friendly products. Detergents, beeswax wraps, shampoos and even toothpaste in a jar are among the products on sale and free from disposable packaging. The founder, Kelly Wright, says she wants to offer a “streamlined, ethical shopping experience” and do the hard work for customers when it comes to looking after the planet.

Around 400 miles south of the Refillery, packaging is also on the agenda in London’s financial district. Canary Wharf Group has partnered with the packaging rewards app Helpful to boost levels of packaging reuse and recycling across the estate. The app will enable people visiting and working in Canary Wharf to scan their plastic waste, be it a coffee cup or drinks bottle, on their mobile phone and receive immediate feedback telling them exactly where they will be able to recycle or reuse the plastic.

In return, they will receive a virtual reward “coin”, redeemable via QR codes, which they can spend at participating retailers. The scheme is the first time that Helpful has been able to incorporate rewards for reuse as well as recycling on a large scale into its app.

And finally, in the latest example of a successful food redistribution collaboration, Fowler Welch and Fareshare have announced that in partnership they have saved more than 2m meals from being wasted since 2016. The haulage firm helps customers redistribute their surplus food to charity by allowing them to add surplus food onto their usual collection. FareShare redistributes the food to organisations such as domestic violence refuges, school breakfast clubs and homeless shelters, helping to feed an estimated 17,000 people every week. A recent expansion of the partnership has enabled Fareshare to bring 37 new suppliers into its redistribution network.

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