A supermarket is one of the first in the country to join a new scheme encouraging customers to return non-recyclable materials.

Marks & Spencer, in High Road, Loughton, will have bins for customers to return plastic that is not collected for recycling by Epping Forest Council.

Crisp packets, meal trays, cosmetic containers and sauce sachets are currently not deemed recyclable by council waste services, which means they end up in landfill.

M&S has pledged any plastic packing materials given back will be reused to make store fittings, furniture and school equipment.

"As a business, we're committed to reducing the amount of plastic we use, and we have already started phasing out non-recyclable packaging from our products," said Laura Fernandez, senior packaging technologist at M&S.

"As we continue to work towards our plastic reduction goals, we want to go a step further and help our customers and the next generation to have a real impact on the environment.”

Other M&S shops also taking part are Westfield Stratford, Bluewater, Tolworth, Cribbs Causeway, Waterside, Fosse Park, and Peterborough.

The company plans to roll-out the bins nationwide by the end of 2019 to ensure they all their packing is widely recyclable by 2022.

Similar bins are also to be deployed in primary schools across the country as part of a collaboration with waste education social enterprise Wastebuster.

Ms Fernandez added: "Customers often don't know how best to recycle certain types of plastic or where it goes after being collected by local councils.

“We're on a mission to provide a greater awareness of landfill avoidance and plastic recyclability, while ultimately helping our customers to give plastic a new purpose and support a truly circular economy."

Katy Newnham, Director at Wastebuster said: “If education is one of the most powerful weapons that can be used to change the world, children are the agents of change. This project aims to harness that potential by informing, inspiring and empowering children to help unlock the potential of UK plastic recycling and become the responsible consumers of tomorrow.”