426 words, approx 2 mins to read.

Only half a million of the 1.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created every year in the UK is being reused. It’s shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already easy to recycle like plastic bottles.

We believe part of the problem lies with a lack of knowledge about which packaging can be recycled along with local authorities lacking the facilities to deal with it. We’re working hard to engage local authorities and waste management companies to make recycling easier for you.

Co-op Members join in to help reduce plastic waste #TheCoopWay

In 2018 we asked Co-op Members to join in #TheCoopWay by suggesting practical things we can try to reduce waste and improve recycling. We’ve had over 800 ideas directly from our members and our next task is to choose a number of those to pilot. We plan to work with the members who came up with the ideas to help us develop and deliver them.

Our Co-op Members overwhelmingly 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, we’re on track to hit this target. More recently at our AGM in 2018 members supported our commitment that:

We aim to make 100% of our packaging ‘easy to recycle’ by 2023

Easier recycling is part of a coordinated response to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic and other packaging too. Of course, a large part of our response involves the first ‘R’, reduce.

Changing our food packaging

At the prestigious Grocer Gold Awards Grocer Gold we were awarded ‘Green Initiative of the Year’ for the steps we’ve taken to replace unrecyclable packaging with sustainable alternatives.

You might have spotted some of our new packaging innovations in store already. But if not, here are just some of the changes we’ve made in our food stores to reduce the amount of plastic packaging:

  • our Co-op Fairtrade 99 Blend Tea will be developed without polypropylene to save 9 tonnes of plastic every year from landfill or being spread on land
  • replaced polystyrene with corrugated cardboard pizza discs, preventing 200 tonnes of plastic waste
  • switching all Co-op branded water bottles to 50% recycled plastic
  • we’re trialling a plastic bottle deposit & return scheme at festivals
  • switching our black sushi boxes to clear plastic and black card – all easy to recycle
  • changing from black to widely recycled blue plastic for mushroom packaging, and a single plastic material for cooked meat trays
  • moved from black plastic to card packaging for tomatoes

Iain Ferguson
Environment Manager

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Hi co op please stop selling 10p and 5p bags . I find both in the country side and by the river where I live ! It’s very upsetting if customers won’t be responsible then surely it’s down to your company to change consumers habits as you started the problem in the first place !

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  2. Plastic waste is a tough idea. There’s talk of shops going back to selling everything loose. That’s be great but for two problems. 1. There’s so much variety of everything now – back in 1950 you’d buy “porridge”. Now even my small convenience store sells about 5 different varieties of porridge! 2. It’d be a nightmare to restock, count, weigh, etc everything.

    Glass and cardboard is out of the question because they weigh too much (doing more harm to the environment in transporting them!). I have been toying with the idea of government issue standard stackable plastic pots of various sizes which could be returned to manufacturers, relabelled and refilled. Same with pop bottles. Use hard plastic jars which can be stacked and returned. There’d be a deposit system in use to encourage returns. The major issue with this is labour involved in processing returns in store, depot and factory. And how to clean them to an acceptable standard.

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    • I personally am not a fan of products such as flour, cereals etc, sold loosely from large tubs/containers, as I have seen people sneeze over them, children dip their dirty hands into them, and I am never sure how fresh the products are. For hygiene reasons I prefer pre-packed goods. I wonder why they cannot be packed in biodegradable plastic.

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  3. Please can the Coop provide plastic bag (including bread bags) recycling bins outside their stores. Thank you.

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    • Hi Madela. As much as that is a good idea I’m afraid there’s so many things that restrict us from doing something like that, not least local councils and the locations and format of the stores. ^Ian

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  4. Hi Joy, do you have the barcode for the product? We’ll feed this back. ^Scott

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    • The Pure Bath soap is now sold as a pack of two bars (it was one bar pack previously) and the full barcode is: 5000128678148.
      I just want to add that the bar was also a different shape – curved palm shape rather than the angular bar that is sold now. Not that important but made it easier to handle and use against the skin.

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  5. As well as the vinegar in plastic bottles, Co-op now sell their own scent-free pure soap in plastic wrapping instead of the previous paper wrapping. Why?

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    • Hi Joy, We use the the PET bottle for vinegar. The PET bottle is widely recycled by the majority of local authorities and has a much lower carbon footprint than glass. ^Siobhan

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  6. Hi there, which store did you visit? Thanks, ^Scott

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  7. I was disappointed to see that co-op bakery bags that were paper had now been replaced by a plastic alternative.

    What is the reason for this?
    Surely this is a backwards step. I would be keen to hear your thoughts.

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  8. its good that your helping the environment I think shops need to lead the way

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. Please have loose veg and fruit not pre packed. I remove all packaging in store and put in mesh bags. The packaging is totally unnecessary

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  10. I notice Co-op Vinegar is now in plastic bottles rather than easily recycled glass. Why is that?

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  11. Can the Co-op not provide paper bags as opposed to plastic, for which to put loose fresh veg in? I am not sure whether this is already in practice in any Co-op stores, as the new Co-op local to me does not open until this summer.

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#TheCoopWay, Co-op AGM, Food #TheCoopWay, Join In #TheCoopWay