Compostable carrier bags made available to all Greater Manchester retailers

The Green Carrier Scheme builds on the Co-op Group’s collaboration with Oldham Council

Retailers across Greater Manchester can buy-cost neutral compostable bags for use in their stores from next month.

The Green Carriers will cost 5p, the same price as the conventional single-use plastic bags as part a Five-Year Environment Plan launched at the Greater Manchester Green Summit on 25 March.

The Green Carrier bags will be available to all retailers operating within the 10 boroughs of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Retailers can register their interest in the new bags and become members of the Green Carrier Scheme.

Cllr Alex Ganotis, portfolio lead for Green City Region, said: “We face urgent and significant environmental challenges in Greater Manchester – the global impacts of climate change and environmental decline have been widely acknowledged as among the greatest economic and public health threats of this century.

“Our Five Year Environment Plan sets out how we will tackle these challenges in Greater Manchester, meeting our environmental responsibilities, alongside securing our economic future and wellbeing. To do this, it sets out a range of policies and commitments, as well as proposing actions that we all need to take to secure an excellent environment for our city region and contribute our fair share to tackling global climate change – Greater Manchester has a history of industrial and social innovation and we need to harness this to make sure everyone here can grow up and live in a clean and green city region, with good quality housing and secure jobs in the future economy.”

The Green Carriers are similar to the Co-op Group’s compostable bags, which also have a dual use and can then be turned into peat-free compost along with the household food waste. The Group’s bags are initially being rolled out to towns, villages and cities where the local authority accepts them as part of household food waste recycling collections.

Green Carriers
Retailers will be able to offer Green Carriers instead of single-use plastic bags at no extra cost

The Green Carrier Scheme was inspired by the Group’s collaboration with Oldham Council. In 2014 the retailer announced a new compostable carrier bag that could be reused as a food waste kitchen caddy-liner. The council then reached an agreement with the retailer to ensure the new ‘Compostable Carrier’ would be available in all of the Group’s stores in the borough.

Later, the council commissioned the production of a dual-use compostable carrier bag, which was identical to the Co-op bag, but was printed with the Oldham Council logo. This bag was offered to retailers as a council-approved product. The pilot enabled the local authority to save costs while greater levels of resident engagement on recycling were recorded.

The Co-op Group’s not-for-profit bags, priced at 5p, have so far replaced around 60 million single-use plastic bags in its food stores alone.

The Group is also making further efforts to address plastic waste. Almost three out of four products that it makes are now widely recyclable, which accounts for 95% of its products when measured by weight. The retailer has pledged to ditch all single-use plastic in its own branded packaging by 2023, and to eliminate all of its own black and dark plastic packaging by 2020.

Michael Fletcher, the Group’s retail chief commercial officer – speaking at the Green Summit earlier this week – said: “It is our aim to find more sustainable alternative solutions to plastic, while driving and delivering innovations for today. But we can’t do it alone, which is why partnerships are key to our plan and are essential as we work to together to keep plastics out of the environment and make a difference to the momentum for change.

“Co-op has the lowest plastic footprint of any retailer and, we are committed to eradicating single use plastic from our stores. We have, for instance, removed polystyrene from pizza bases, taken plastic out of our cotton buds and, we do not sell any products containing plastic microbeads. Last year Co-op rolled-out compostable carriers to over 1,000 stores, and I am pleased to announce that similar bags will be available through an initiative with GMCA. By sharing knowledge and, co-operating, we can enable every retailer in Greater Manchester to access compostable bags for their customers.”

The five-year plan is the first city-region wide strategy to drive down avoidable single-use plastics. Using the hashtag #PlasticFreeGM, the summit asked businesses, organisations and individuals to pledge to take action.