The Co-op Group has thrown its support behind government proposals for a plastic bottle deposit scheme in England and Wales.
The idea is among those being considered by environment secretary Michael Gove to combat the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans.
He announced a four-week call for opinions on the idea, and is also considering a deposit scheme for metal and glass containers.
Recent figures suggest that more than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year. But while just 57% of plastic bottles are recycled in England, that figure is more than 90% in Germany and Denmark where deposit schemes are in place.
The Scottish government has already announced plans for a deposit return scheme.
The Group is one of two retailers to support Mr Gove’s plan, alongside Iceland, in a recent survey by Greenpeace.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: “We are committed to ensuring all of our own packagings will be recyclable and we are firm supporters of initiatives designed to boost recycling levels.
“The Co-op is in favour of creating a deposit-return scheme which increases the overall recycling of packaging and significantly reduces litter and, importantly, helps tackle marine pollution.”
She added: “We look forward to working with others, including government, local authorities, manufacturers and other retailers, to help design a scheme that delivers in all these areas.”
But Greenpeace said other supermarkets it had surveyed, including Tescos, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, Lidl, Aldi and Morrisons, were either non-committal or expressed reservations.
Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge said: “It is possible to prevent throwaway plastic polluting our rivers and oceans, but to achieve this we really need companies to step up to the plate.
“That’s why it’s brilliant to see Iceland and the Co-op coming out in favour of deposit return schemes – one of the tried and tested solutions needed to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis.
“Iceland and Co-op have shown some vision and set the standard – now its time for other companies to follow suit and start publicly backing deposit return schemes.”