Major British retailer Marks & Spencer launched an initiative called “Project Thin Air” over a year ago to redesign packaging for 140 popular food products. The goal: Use less plastic and slim down the pack size without changing the amount of food inside. This week M&S announced that the project has been successful to date.
Changes to the packaging included switching to a thinner, stronger film bag for their hand-cooked potato chips, which uses 20% less plastic than before, the Guardian reported. In addition, taking extra air out of their popcorn bags helped the company reduce the pack size by 37%.
Other retailers have been rethinking their packaging. Earlier this year, the British grocery company Tesco introduced meat and poultry packaging made from 95% food-safe recycled content that was also lighter than equivalent trays. Target began phasing out polystyrene foam packing in 2017 and Unilever announced that 100% of its plastic packaging would be completely recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025.
Demand for sustainable packaging is likely going to grow, according to market research published earlier this year. The market is expected to reach about $440.3 billion in the next eight years.
The M&S packaging redesign efforts reduced the materials needed, which also cut carbon emissions. The retailer says that the project saved 75 metric tons of packaging in a year, the carbon emissions equivalent of taking 152 trucks off the road. The company sees the project as just the start of a larger corporate effort to bring similar savings to the rest of their operations, M&S packaging expert Laura Fernandez said in a public statement.
In 2007, M&S launched Plan A, an initiative involving ambitious commitments to address climate change, waste, resources, fair partnerships, and health. Now M&S is starting a new sustainability initiative called Plan A 2025 that aims to convert the company’s entire business model zero waste. At the top of the to-do list: Making all M&S packaging widely recyclable by 2022.