September 25, 2017

Recycling #TheCoopWay

443 words, approx. 2 minutes to read.

Lots of food packaging goes unrecycled because it’s not always easy to know if the packaging is recyclable. As a food retailer, we are able to help.

We’ve been working on this for some time and have a goal to make all Co-op food packaging ‘easy to recycle’.

We define ‘easy to recycle’ when the packaging carries these labels:

  • “widely recycled” (your council will collect from your kerbside)
  • “check local recycling” (widely recycled at recycling points, some kerbsides)

We also offer to recycle some other materials, such as polyethene film and carrier bags, in larger Co-op stores.

How we measure if our food packaging is ‘easy to recycle’

We measure how much of our food packaging is ‘easy to recycle’ by the number of individual product lines. For example, Co-op Semi-Skimmed Milk is one product line, Co-op Skimmed Milk is another.

We used to measure by the combined weight of our food product packaging. Previously we reported 85% of (the combined weight of) our food packaging was ‘easy to recycle,’ when in fact 45% of (the individual product lines of) our food packaging was ‘easy to recycle’.

Our goal

100% of our food packaging is ‘easy to recycle’.

Our Co-op Members voted at our AGM in 2017 to commit our Co-op to increasing the percentage of all our Co-op food products with ‘easy to recycle’ packaging from 45% to 80%, by 2020. This is the first step in our overall goal of making 100% of Co-op food packaging ‘easy to recycle’.

To read more on our goal to make it ‘easy to recycle’ all or our Co-op food packaging, see our Tipping Point Report.

How are we doing?

69% of our food packaging is ‘easy to recycle’.

Last reported in May 2017.

We’ve made more of our food packaging ‘easy to recycle’ by changing our:

  • meat product packaging, it’s now made with a single material
  • milk bottle top colours to a lighter shade, this makes them easier to recycle
  • Pizza bases from polystyrene to cardboard
  • Irresistible tomato packaging from plastic to cardboard
  • recycling labelling to say what most councils say

We also stock compostable carrier bags in selected stores in England and Scotland. They can be used to carry shopping home and then within food waste caddies and bins

You can read more about how some of our food packaging is keeping food fresher for longer.

What we’re tackling next

We’re always working to make our food packaging easier to recycle. Next, we’re working on:

  • making more plastic films ‘easy to recycle’
  • finding alternatives to our current ready-meal trays
  • sourcing new packaging to extend the shelf life of products

Iain Ferguson
Environment Manager

Join the conversation! 17 Comments

  1. I have wondered for a long time why supermarkets don’t use paper bags for loose fruit and veg instead of plastic. After all, we’re putting our paper out for recycling,so why not use recycled paper? Also, I have come across ready meals (admittedly expensive) in a kind of box made from thin wood,or card, which cooks fine in the oven. I guess it will come down to cost, but we must try and get less plastic in our rubbish,that’s costing the earth!


  2. Well done. As a responsible retailer it’s good we are looking at ways to increase recycling. We all have a responsibility to our children and our planet.


  3. I welcome this clarification. Whilst reviewing packaging can you look at ease of opening; in particular meat products and fish. I find it difficult so think of elderly with arthritic joints.


  4. Great job Iain and the Coop team!


  5. This is excellent news especially regarding using plastic film which is able to be recycled. At the moment you have to rip off the plastic film because it is not presently recyclable before you can recycle the other part of the packaging, this can be a bit of a pain and often puts people off. So well done to all involved at our Co-op.


  6. Can you tell me why nearly all the co op chickens are sold in foil trays, I’ve stopped buying them . What’s wrong with using an oven dish we can wash and use over again . I feel very angry about this when the co op keep telling us how responsible they are.


  7. I would like to see biodegradable bags used for more things and for the bags that you put loose fruit and veg in. These could then be used to line our recycling food caddies rather than just thrown away.


  8. Thanks for your feedback, Beth, we’ll pass this over to our carrier bag buyer. ^Scott


  9. Why are so many fruit and vegetable lines only available prepacked? I always try to buy loose produce to reduce the packaging used. The Coop seems to have reverted to prepacked.


  10. Hi, like Kathlyn above I also like to buy vegetables loose, but in our store other than carrots, there is no choice, everything else is prepackaged in plastic, I don’t buy the argument that “ is to keep the produce fresher”, the turnover in Woodcote is massive, there 4 or5 deliveries a day, surely loose vegetables would be bought as or indeed more frequently than plastic wrapped ones, and the torn bags just get thrown away and not necessarily recycled. Please bring back loose veges.


  11. Hi Gerald, we are looking at ways to reduce packaging overall. I’ll make sure to feed this back. ^Siobhan


  12. Why did you stop using bio degradable bags and switch to plastic?.



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