Pic Neil O'Connor (UNP).

The Co-op has declared war on single-use plastic bags.

Twenty-two of its Greater Manchester stores are the first to offer compostable bags instead of single-use plastic bags.

The move comes ahead of a nationwide roll-out to almost 1,400 stores later this year which will remove around 60M single-use plastic carrier bags.

The move is part of The Future of Food, the Co-op’s new hard-hitting ethical strategy which launched today. It will tackle plastic pollution as well as food waste, healthy eating, saving energy and trading fairly.

The blueprint sets out how the Co-op will ban single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce its overall use of plastic packaging within five years and stop using hard to recycle materials, like black plastic.

As part of the commitment, the lightweight compostable carrier bags, which can be used to carry shopping home and then be used as food waste caddy liners, will be rolled out to stores in towns, cities and villages where the bags are accepted by the local authority in food waste collections.

The first council to work with the Co-op, Oldham Council, turns the food waste, and bag, into peat-free compost, with the scheme also shown to support community and resident engagement with recycling.

The not-for-profit compostable bags are 5p – the same price as a conventional single-use plastic.

The Future of Food blueprint also sets out how the Co-op will ban single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce its overall use of plastic packaging within five years and stop using hard to recycle materials, like black plastic.

The Co-op’s pledge on plastic will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023. It has promised to use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021.

All own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020.

The Co-op’s 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. It has reduced hard to recycle plastics, such as pizza discs, sushi bases and cooked meat packaging but promises to go further.

Its reductions in plastic use, combined with its new pledge on carrier bags, is the equivalent to 125 million plastic water bottles** being taken out of production

“The price of food wrapped in plastic has become too much to swallow,” said Co-op
Retail chief executive, Jo Whitfield. “From today, the Co-op will phase out any packaging which cannot be reused. The first step to remove single-use plastic, will be to launch compostable carrier bags in our stores. They are a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags.”

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