Plastic bag donations top £5m from co-ops

Following the sale of almost 118 million plastic carriers, retail co-ops have donated almost £5m to good causes. Since October last year, government legislation has meant that stores have...

Following the sale of almost 118 million plastic carriers, retail co-ops have donated almost £5m to good causes.

Since October last year, government legislation has meant that stores have been charging 5p for each single-use plastic bag. Once a payment for VAT is deducted, the rest of the monies are donated to good causes in the community.

Collectively, stores in England have donated £29m to community projects, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

In the first six months since the charge was introduced, co-op retailers sold 117,969,945 carriers, bringing in over £5.9m. After the VAT deduction and other expenses (such as costs of communicating the 5p charge), co-ops reported donating £5.077m to good causes.

The Co-operative Group’s proceeds from the plastic bag charge reached more than £3m, which will be used to support local causes in the communities they serve in England, alongside a new community funding programme launching in autumn 2016. In those six months, the Group distributed 62 million single-use bags, which is a significant drop for the full year of 2013 where it gave away 532 million bags.

Group members will receive a 5% reward for any purchases they make of Co-op own brand products and services, with a further 1% directly benefiting local causes through the new Local Community Fund. The Group plans to top-up the fund to local causes by adding the proceeds of carrier bag levy to the amount raised in each community.

The Group has identified 1,500 communities around its Food stores and Funeralcare homes (around 1,150 of these in England), where local causes and projects will be given the opportunity to benefit from the new 1% community reward. Colleagues within a Co-op community will initially select three local charities for members to support with their 1% community benefit for a period of six months. Carrier bag levy proceeds from the Food stores in each community will be shared between the three local causes at the beginning of the period.

In addition to the single-use carriers, 12.6 million bags for life were sold to shoppers, and East of England Co-op used paper bags 35,000 times instead of plastic bags.

Shortly after the introduction of the levy, Chelmsford Star stopped selling single-use carriers and instead opted to exclusively offer bags for life to customers.

Central England Co-operative is to use the funds to install defibrillators in 100 stores, which is expected to be complete by May 2017.

NamePlastic bags issuedNumber of bags for lifeAmount donated
Central England Co-operative Limited6,455,118-225,500
Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society Ltd631128,391-
East of England Co-operative Society508,914100,000-
Heart of England Co-operative Society739,100-30,796
John Lewis5,755,054--
Lincolnshire Co-operative Limited1,518,798349,96263,282
Radstock Co-operative Society Limited298,65148,5369,273
Scotmid Co-operative & Semi Chem (England stores only)151,60423,6806,316
The Co-operative Group62,424,14610,833,2033,112,326
The Midcounties Co-operative4,900,174741,638170,218
The Southern Co-operative4,308,808466,414172,391
Waitrose Ltd.30,908,947-1,287,872

Get the full data on co-ops and plastic bags

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey, said: “Taking six billion plastic bags out of circulation is fantastic news for all of us – it will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won’t be saddled with mountains of plastic sat taking hundreds of years to breakdown in landfill sites.

“The 5p charge has clearly been a huge success – not only for our environment but for good causes across the country that have benefitted from an impressive £29 million raised.

“It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use.”

Eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the environment. Plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

Dr Sue Kinsey, technical specialist, Waste at the Marine Conservation Society, also said: “We are delighted to see that the bag charge in England is showing positive results.

“This is a significant reduction that will benefit the environment as a whole, and our sea life in particular. There is always more that we can do and we encourage everyone to join in on our Great British Beach Clean this September to help keep our coastlines clean.”

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