John Lewis and Waitrose have announced this Christmas will be the last time they will be selling crackers with plastic toys inside.
The decision by the John Lewis Partnership - which operates both retailers - has been made as part of its plans to cut down on single use plastic products.
Crackers will be instead filled with toys made from recyclable materials, such as metal and paper games, the partnership said, and they will be decorated with techniques such as embossing, rather than plastic glitter.
This year, John Lewis is selling three own brand designs of ‘fill your own’ crackers, and so far these are proving to be the most popular crackers, the partnership said, accounting for one in every three packets of crackers sold.
Dan Cooper, partner and head Christmas buyer at John Lewis, said: “Reducing the amount of single use plastic in products and packaging is really important to us and our customers.
“One of the challenges I face as a buyer is that we plan 18 months ahead so it takes time for changes to become a reality. I’m always searching for new, more sustainable products which will make Christmas sparkle but won’t end up spoiling our environment.”
Friends of the Earth is calling on all supermarkets to pledge to get rid of all unnecessary plastics ahead of the festive period.
The retailer has also reduced the amount of plastic glitter on its own brand range of festive wrapping paper, gift bags and tags, advent calendars and crackers by two-thirds - and it has already removed the plastic wrapping from vast majority of the individual cards it sells and estimates that this alone will save eight tonnes of plastic each year.
Waitrose has already confirmed that by Christmas next year, its own label cards, wraps, crackers, tags, flowers and plants will either be glitter-free or the retailer will use an environmentally friendly alternative.
Gift of a plastic-free Christmas
Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth: “We’ve seen great stuff from Waitrose’s Unpacked initiative in cutting out plastic, so it’s a shame that we couldn’t have had plastic-free Christmas crackers sooner than 2020.
Getting rid of the plastic tat from Christmas crackers will go some way to cutting down the pollution of the festive season, but we’d like to challenge all supermarkets to give us the gift of a Christmas completely free of unnecessary plastic.”
Plastic pollution is a worsening global problem, with millions of tons of plastic waste ending up in the oceans each year. Besides the risks to marine life from getting tangled up in or ingesting plastic waste, the chemicals in plastic can cause physiological and hormonal changes in humans and animals.