The decision follows an extensive trial across food stores and filling stations in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex which resulted in a reduction of over 80 per cent in the number of regular plastic carrier bags issued in the participating outlets — plus a significant increase in the sale of eco-friendly alternatives including the Co-op ‘Bag for Life’ and the Fairtrade Cotton bag.
East of England Chief Executive Richard Samson told the News: “We believe other national food retailers are targeting a 25 per cent reduction in carrier bags over the next few years, but that’s not good enough.
“The results of our trials suggest that, with the co-operation of our customers, we can achieve an overall reduction of at least 75–80 per cent of carrier bags issued in our 135 food stores across East Anglia.
“This would potentially eliminate around 30 million carrier bags every year from the region’s landfill sites. We would encourage competitors to follow our lead and take action now to help resolve this national problem for the benefit of the communities they operate in.”
Co-op regular degradable plastic carrier bag will still be available at 1p for the small size and 2p for the large size. These degradable bags were first introduced in 2002 and are made from conventional polythene (plastic) with an additive to break them down within three years, while traditional plastic bags can take over 100 years to disintegrate.
East of England food stores also stock a home compostable bag made from polyester and cornstarch, which sells at 6p. These bags are designed and certified to break down within 12 months in a garden compost bin, but the process occurs faster in warm weather.
New recycling bins will be available in all the society’s trading outlets to enable customers to recycle clean plastic bags. Prior to implementing the new policy, promotional campaigns will enable customers to receive free ‘Bags for Life’ for a limited period.
Among those supporting the initiative are Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich, and Colchester’s Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell.
Said Mr Mole: “I am delighted to see East of England roll out this excellent scheme out to all its food outlets and petrol stations. We all have to do our bit to make the free distribution of plastic bags a thing of the past. The Government is prepared to legislate to realise this vision, but I am impressed to see an institution like the Co-op voluntarily setting the benchmark.”
Mr Russell commented: “As a lifelong supporter of the Co-operative Movement, I am delighted to endorse this latest pioneering move which reinforces the Co-op’s proud record of being Britain’s leading environmentally-friendly retailer. All who take environmental issues seriously will welcome this initiative and I wish the society every success.”