Co-op Group gets tough on plastic in new ethical blueprint

The retailer is to phase out single use plastic bags and make its packaging easier to recyle

The Co-op Group will today announce an end to single-use plastic.

The move will see around 60 million plastic carrier bags removed in a phased rollout and replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative. The move is part of a new hard-hitting ethical strategy promised by the Group, to be launched next week. It says it will tackle plastic pollution, food waste, healthy eating, energy saving and fair trading.

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.

And as part of the commitment, lightweight compostable carrier bags, which can be used to carry shopping home and then be re-used as food waste caddy liners, will be rolled out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores across England, Scotland and Wales. Initially in towns, cities and villages where the bags are accepted in food waste collections.

The pledge will see all the Group’s 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, it says.

Related: Co-op Group profits rise by £12m as it announces half-year results

The initiative to ditch single-use plastics will see the Group increase recyclable packaging and materials. Almost three out of four products that the Co-op makes are now widely recyclable, it says, which accounts for 95% of its products when measured by weight.

It adds that is 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.

Jo Whitfield

Retail chief executive Jo Whitfield said: “The price of food wrapped in plastic has become too much to swallow and, 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.”

 She added: “Our ban on single-use plastic is central to our new ethical blueprint. The Co-op was founded on righting wrongs, and we first campaigned to stop food fraud. Now we face huge global challenges and have created a recipe for sustainability to source responsibly, treat people with fairness and produce products which have minimal impact on the planet.

 “We can’t do it alone, which is why partnerships are key to our plan.”

Related: Coop Norway runs litter clean-up in war on plastic waste

The Future of Food report will be unveiled at a supplier conference on Thursday 27 September, setting out the Group’s vision to tackle a range of topics including food waste, Fairtrade and energy. It has been developed to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030.

The  Group already sources 100% renewable energy for its stores, but will go on to tackle greenhouse emissions through its logistics operations. In addition, Co-op will reduce energy, water and waste in its supply chain.

It says it will continue to campaign for the rights of workers in its supply chain, having raised the issue of modern slavery, and will raise funds to bring clean water to communities in developing countries.

In this article

Join the Conversation