290 words approx. 1.5 minutes to read

We know that the issues of waste, packaging and recyclability are a big concern for our members and customers. Last year Co-op Members voted to make 100% of our packaging easy to recycle. We’re 69% of the way there already and want to increase this to 80% by 2020.

Now we’re looking to go further, with members’ help. We want our members’ ideas on practical things we can trial to reduce waste and improve recycling.
What Co-op Members are saying about waste

Thousands of Co-op Members have already joined in help identify the main waste and packaging issues.

Member Participation - Plastics op - Infographic

Here’s what they’re saying:

  • Members are clearly concerned about waste with 76% believing the issue to be ‘absolutely critical’ for society today
  • Nearly 1/3 (29%) say they buy things with less packaging to reduce waste
    81% say “if it’s recyclable, it gets recycled,” while a further 16% say “I recycle most things”
  • 67% have encouraged others to recycle more and 49% encouraged others to produce less food packaging waste
  • 49% think that the responsibility for reducing waste lies mostly with retailers
  • 24% are aware of work Co-op has been doing to improve packaging

It’s not too late to Join In #TheCoopWay

We’ve heard clearly from members about the waste and packaging issues that they find particularly frustrating. Perhaps unsurprisingly, plastic packaging, over-packaging and recycling are high on everyone’s agenda.

Now, we’re looking for suggestions about how our Co-op could take on waste and help our members and their communities to best manage theirs too.

If you’re a Co-op Member, now is the time to join in and tell us what you think. Head over to your online Membership account to Join In.

If you’re not yet a Co-op Member, become a member today.

Member Participation - Blog Post Banner - Join In 1

I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Cathryn Higgs
Head of Food Policy

Read more about reducing impacts at our Co-op;

Join the conversation! 35 Comments

  1. All through the 50s and 60s when I was a lad I used to return glass bottles for money because they were cleaned and reused again, you see what’s lacking is money incentive, so lets do the same with soft drink cans, plastic and glass bottles, its a start.

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    • I also returned bottles for a refund but when the owner of the shop found out we were sneaking into his back yard and helping ourselves to the bottles we had returned the day before he wasn’t too pleased .When he told my Dad l couldn’t sit down for a week due to a good hiding which l deserved . Hopefully Clive the Coop will start a similar scheme but not leave the empties in the back yard .
      I see Carlsberg have stopped wrapping beer in plastic (the 4 packs that had plastic to hold them together and are now using glue ) that’s a good step by them and l hope the British manufacturer’s take note and do the same .

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  2. I believe todate we UK humans have never got the plastic tops and main tooth paste tubes ever recycled? they all have just gone to landfill ! I think I may have seen bamboo tooth brushes in a co-op store but never the likes of tooth bush powder (instead of tooth paste tubes) in say small tins that each person in a house could have as their own to use each day? Could this be another first for the Co-op instead of tradition plastic tooth paste tubes & paste dispensers.

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    • What we need are suppliers to use only re-cyclable containers to put their products in and make it an offence to use packaging that is non re-cyclable ,also education on re-cycling should be part of the school lessons ,you can never not recycle once you are taught .

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  3. I’ve noticed that when the vacuum packed broccoli is put out on display, even though the date is still early, the broccoli is clearly almost off /very off. Why try to sell off veg?

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  4. We know our customers like to see products before purchasing, so the window allows them to do this. It’s still recycable in the same way that an envelope is. ^Ian

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  5. Just bought some pastries in a coop. What’s the deal with the pastry bags? Why have a plastic window on the front? Seems like a bit of a pointless additional step and total waste of materials.

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    • The reason why there is a window in the pastry bags is so the checkout operator can see what’s in the bag without opening the bag ,quite simple when you think about it.

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  6. […] Co-op Members can join in to help reduce waste #TheCoopWay […]

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  7. Our own brand seasonal straws are already paper and have been for a couple of years. We stock a branded plastic straw that will be replaced with a paper version by the end of the year. Thanks, ^Scott

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  8. You don’t appear to be listening. On the shelves of my local Co-op two days ago, were plastic straws, plastic cups and plastic cutlery!
    The best way to reduce plastic waste is not shop at the Co-op!

    The independents in my area are making much bigger efforts, I am looking to these to do all my shopping now.

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  9. Perishable goods last longer in packaging, reducing waste. We’re also looking at alternatives to plastic and to reduce packaging overall. If you’re a Co-op Member you can join in to help reduce waste #TheCoopWay https://coop.uk/2IzbXew Thanks, ^Scott

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  10. Please can you stop wrapping root veg? A swede does not need to be wrapped – it is a long lasting winter vegetable with its own protective overcoat! And it doesn’t need a sell by date either.

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  11. […] This summer we’re excited to become the first major grocer to trial a plastic bottle deposit and return scheme (DRS) with reverse vending machines. The machines will be installed in our Co-op pop-up shops at four music festivals and is part of our commitment to increase recycling and reduce waste. […]

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  12. As much as I really enjoyed the Co-op Super Green Salad I bought today, I didn’t enjoy the gift of a free plastic fork I hadn’t asked for and didn’t need.
    All supermarkets do this, but that’s no excuse. Why not place plastic cutlery in a receptacle by the salads’ fridge – rather than IN the salads – so that people can choose whether they need one or not? Better still, charge 5p for a fork and people might start remembering to bring one from home!

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  13. In a country with drinkable water I fail to see why any supermarket should be selling it in plastic bottles. And how many varieties of H2O are Being marketed?
    Do consumers have too much money or are they too lazy to fill a re useable container from the tap?

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  14. Me again, another way to reduce food waste is to sell at a reduced rate. As a single mom of four I relied on reduced price fruits and veg to feed my kids as healthy as possible. Sell those bananas that are turning, Post the recipe for banana bread and put on website as well. There are many fruits and veg that are fine far beyond sell by date. Show people ways to use them and save money and food waste.

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  15. How timely, I was about to write to you regarding Co-Ops packaging for salt and pepper. I bought both, each came in a glass bottle with a plastic grinder attached. When my product was getting low I bought bulk peppercorns and sea salt. Surprise surprise I can’t take the plastic grinder top off to refill the container. What a ridiculous waste of resources to produce this container that cannot be reused. Not happy!

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    • Thank you for the feedback, if you’re a Co-op Member, please join in via your Membership account here: http://coop.uk/2Iv7AND ^Jordan

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    • I too did the same with the salt and pepper pots so l have binned the Coop bottles now they are empty and bought wooden refillable ones and buy pepper corns and salt in boxes and fill them myself .And it works out so much cheaper .

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    • I too was amazed when l couldn’t open the plastic top on the salt grinder so l recycled the pot and have purchased a new condiment set £3.99 so that l can buy the salt and pepper loose and refill them myself .No more buying expensive glass condiments to put in recycling .

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  16. I agree with those who are trying to make the Coop realise that recycling is simply not enough. We want to reduce the amount of packaging used. We don’t want you to simply tells us that it can be recycled. And we definitely want fruit and veg to be loose and free from plastic packaging. So please listen to the members. And don’t listen to those representing the packaging industry.

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    • Hi Mike, thanks for joining in, but if you’re a Co-op Member join in via your online Membership account to ensure your voice is heard. We’re looking for actionable ideas and suggestions to reduce plastic packaging in Co-op, so now’s the time to join in #TheCoopWay ^Jordan

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  17. Yes, please sell loose fruit and veg! If a bag is necessary, make it a paper one! I live alone and packaged fruit and veg is usually too great a quantity.u

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    • Hi Maude, we know plastic packaging on fresh produce helps to extend the shelf life and therefore reduces food waste, but if you’re a Co-op Member, these suggestions are perfect for sharing via your online Membership account. We’re looking for actionable ideas and suggestions to reduce plastic packaging in Co-op, so now’s the time to join in #TheCoopWay ^Jordan

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  18. Most of us bring bags with us – so why are nearly all the fruit and,veg wrapped in plastic (which can be hard to open (for the elderly with weak fingers!) I bought three egg-plants yesterday, and had the greatest difficulty in opening the plastic in which they were wrapped (individually as well!) Some of the fruit/veg in packets contain too many pieces for single customers as well;; ,please donot wrap ll,the stuff in mplastic.

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  19. Is there a reason why my tiny local store with only one small aisle for fruit and veg has the option to buy bagged and unbagged bananas? The bagged ones go over ripe far quicker than the unbagged so the argument of ‘packaging reducing food waste’ is void! Why not just sell loose?

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  20. Co-op are possibly the worst supermarket for excess packaging of fruit & veg. You keep rolling out the same excuse about things lasting longer but how come Sainsbury’s manage to sell, for example, loose aubergines?

    It’s often not possible to buy loose even for basic fast moving lines like onions & carrots. In my local store they have them for a while, then they’re discontinued, then they come back again, and repeat!

    The effect of this is not just packaging waste but also potentially food waste if you’re forced to buy more than you need. For example having to buy a bag of carrots which might mean the last few go off. Sweet potatoes are another example where it’s impossible to buy one. And I’m not sure what effect wrapping each bulb of garlic in a net has that keeps it fresher for longer!

    Anyway I’ve found a solution which is to try & use the local greengrocers instead. Paper bags, loose produce, no gaps on the shelves and much cheaper!

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  21. Having bins in the shops so we can offload any superfluous packaging right there before we leave the shop would be really useful.

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  22. Hi Sandra. I’ll do my best to address all the points you raised. (1) Perishable goods last longer in packaging, reducing food waste. You may find loose fruit and veg for a number of reasons, perhaps due to a supplier, or perhaps due to a local trial. (2) We’re looking at alternatives to plastic and to reduce packaging overall. Find out more about how we’re working to make 100% of our Co-op packaging easily recyclable http://coop.uk/2uHfrpk​ (3) More on our position on palm oil can be found here: http://coop.uk/2uIhBVV Hope that helps, ^Ian

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    • I read what you’re saying, it’s the same old answers! How is this stuff being recycled? I looked at your position on palm oil. Sustainable? Really? ROSPA has been highly criticised.

      The way large retailers operate does not allow for common sense.
      In my local Co-op, a while ago, I picked up a pack of 2 field mushrooms in the reduced section. It wouldn’t go through the till because of the date. i was told it should have been removed, a mistake! I said I was still prepared to buy them, they looked perfectly ok. No, can’t do that!
      I now go to my local greengrocer, paper bags and buy what I want.

      My local Co-op changed from a supermarket to a convenience store, since then I’ve seen more plastic and junk food on the shelves. It’s why I shop more at the small independent stores, they are the ones making the changes, not just talking about it. Maybe a return to these shops is what is needed, as E.F. Schumacher said ‘Small is Beautiful’

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    • Perishable Goods may last longer in packaging , but by reducing food wage which Is biodegradable, you are increasing plastic non biodegradable waste , especially plastic film which cannot even be recycled. Surely the food waste is better for the environment than the alternative plastic waste! Also as someone else on this thread has mentioned, there is actually more food waste with packaged foods as we often have to buy more than we need.

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  23. Come on Co-op, actions speak louder than words! Years ago you brought out compostable carrier bags, then stopped! You had some packaging made from corn starch and cardboard, then you stopped!
    I still have not had an answer (asked three times, in store and online) as to why sometimes you have loose fruit and veg and other times not! You’ve made a big thing about supplying vegan food and a lot of it contains palm oil (NOT vegan) and it’s wrapped in plastic!
    Recycling isn’t the answer, even more so now China doesn’t want our waste.
    I’m now really disappointed with the Co-operative as a whole and I’ve been a member for many years! I don’t for how much longer though.

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