Shoppers can bag compostable carriers at Co-op as retailer ditches single-use plastic

More than 1,000 Co-op food stores are at the forefront of the retailer’s moves to ditch single-use plastics, with the roll-out of new compostable carriers from last week.

The community retailer is rolling out it new compostable carrier bags to over 1,000 communities in a move estimated to replace around 60M single-use plastic bags UK-wide.

The bags are initially available in Co-op food stores in communities where they are accepted by the Local Authority in the household food waste collections.

Shoppers – who forget their bag-for-life – can use the compostable bags to carry shopping home, the carriers then have a secondary use as food waste caddy liners. The bags can be turned into peat-free compost along with the household food waste, and are approved for home composting.

The compostable carriers are priced at 5p, the same price as the conventional single-use plastic bags that will be removed.

Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager, Co-op, said: “Our members and customers expect us to help them to make more ethical choices, and we are dedicated to doing just that. Reducing environmental impacts is, and always has been, at the core of Co-op’s efforts. The bags are carefully designed to help local authorities with food waste recycling, supporting their community and resident engagement and, reducing plastic contamination in a targeted way.

“We are working to get closer to what our members want, need and care about. We have committed to removing own brand plastic products, and the launch of compostable carrier bags in our stores provides an environmentally-friendly alternative to single-use plastic shopping bags. We face huge global challenges and our ethical strategy sets out a recipe for sustainability to source responsibly, treat people with fairness and produce products which have minimal impact on our planet. However, we can’t do it alone and co-operation is key to our plan – we welcome measures designed to make recycling simpler and more accessible for consumers, which bring together supply and waste value chains to achieve a more circular economy.”

Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, said: “We absolutely need to explore innovative ways of tackling plastic pollution, but there is a balance to ensure initiatives are well thought through and avoid unintended consequences. I’m pleased to see this reflected in the Co-op’s approach to its compostable carrier bag initiative by carefully designing an approach that aligns with existing local collection systems. By everyone moving in the right direction, we can transform the plastic system in the UK and keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.”

The roll-out follows live consumer testing in 22 stores in the Greater Manchester earlier this autumn. The move is part of Co-op’s new hard-hitting ethical strategy called “The Future of Food – a recipe for sustainability” which sets out how the Co-op will tackle plastic pollution as well as food waste, healthy eating, saving energy and trading fairly.

The Co-op’s pledge on plastic will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023. All own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020. The initiative to ditch single-use plastics will see it increase recyclable packaging and materials. Almost three out of four products that the Co-op makes are now widely recyclable, which accounts for 95% of its products when measured by weight.

The Co-op’s strategy has been developed to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.

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