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We’re removing single-use plastic carrier bags from almost 1,400 Co-ops and replacing them with the UK’s first compostable carrier bag with a defined second use; for use in kitchen food waste caddies.

What’s a compostable carrier bag?

Compostable carrier bags can be used to carry your shopping home from Co-op and then used as kitchen food waste caddy liners. We will roll these out to 1,400 Co-ops, which are in communities where the local council collects food scraps from kitchen food waste caddies. This number will increase over time as more local councils start to collect food waste.

Some of the benefits of our compostable carrier bags are:

  • they’re the same size and strength as plastic carrier bags
  • they can be used as kitchen food waste caddy liners
  • their handles make them easier to use than ordinary kitchen food waste caddy liners
  • they‘re completely biodegrade in compost systems that many councils use
  • they’re cheaper than buying kitchen food waste caddy liners, at just 5p each
  • more methane-generating food waste is diverted from landfill to compost systems
  • they save your local council money

Of course, we would still sell our reusable bags for life, but these compostable bags are ideal for those times that you forget or you need something in passing.

How else are Co-op reducing single-use plastic?

Our new compostable carrier bags form part of a new ethical strategy, Future of Food, which we’re launching on Thursday 27 September 2018. Future of Food will also tackle food waste, healthy eating, energy saving and trading fairly. This vision has been developed to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

In addition to our compostable carrier bags, today we’re committing to:

  • make all Co-op branded packaging easy to recycle by 2023, with 80% of packaging easy to recycle by 2020
  • eliminate single-use plastics used for packaging Co-op branded products, by 2023
  • use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic by 2021, in our
    • bottles (including PET or Polyethylene terephthalate and HDPE or polyethylene high-density)
    • pots
    • trays
    • punnets
  • eliminate Co-op branded black and dark plastic packaging, by 2020

We’ve already taken a number of steps to reduce our plastic waste by removing plastic packaging within five years, stop using hard to recycle materials, like black plastic and switching some plastic packaging for more environmentally friendly alternatives. We’ve also asked for our members to join in #TheCoopWay to help reduce waste.

Iain Ferguson
Environment Manager

Read more on how we’re tackling plastic waste at our Co-op;

Join the conversation! 26 Comments

  1. Hello

    Are your Bags for life made of plastic? If so, why not use other eco-friendly and hard wearing materials such as jute or organic cotton. This would help to reduce the usage of plastic and our planet.

    • Production of cotton bags have a significant carbon impact, so much that you need to re-use a cotton bag many thousands of times before it offsets the carbon footprint of even one single use plastic bag.

  2. Hi,. Can I ask what happened to the reusable foldup pouch shopping bags? They could fit into a small pocket and were very useful. I’ve looked in lots of your stores and can’t find them? I would like to buy some.

  3. Hi Steve, Perishable goods last longer in packaging, reducing waste. We’re also looking at alternatives to plastic and to reduce packaging overall. Find out about our 2030 ambition to reduce single-use plastic https://coop.uk/2OzmQ32

  4. Today, visiting my local COOP in Machynlleth, I see more vegetables than ever before wrapped in plastic.
    Root vegetables, leeks, broccoli, and fruits, do not need wrapping.
    Maybe you just need to watch yesterday’s (Monday) BBC 1 program “Drowning in Plastic” to understand why producers and retailers are the main source of plastic containers and wrapping that has reached as far as the remotest islands of the Pacific and Stitzbergen in the Arctic.
    It is everywhere and in everything we eat, particularly from the sea, which is where most it finishes up, washed from the land to the sea.
    We do not have the luxury of time to fix this situation.
    Recycling is not the answer. Removal is.
    Fix the cause and not the effect.

  5. Hi Miss Rayner fay Waddell, of course this forms just part of our ambitions to reduce single-use plastic. We still encourage customers to opt for a bag for life in-store. ^Jordan

  6. Great step in the right direction and reassuring that progress is being made. I do hope progress speeds up somewhat though as there are some Co-op products that have a shockingly unnecessary level of packaging. I bought one of the free-from coconut and mango compote yoghurts recently and for such a small yoghurt I can’t help but feel there is no need for a thick plastic pot, separate plastic lid, foldable spoon and cardboard outer. I understand there are plans in place to address in time but the current levels of excess packaging are alarming.

  7. Well done , this is a fantastic move in the right direction. Lets hope other retailers will follow. Primark clothes store have used paper bags for along time. The use of plastic is out of control & it should have never have been allowed to happen, we were unknowingly polluting & killing the creatures & planet, we know now so must cease this .My council of Bury Lancashire has provided us with compost bins & compost degradable bags for a long time. Thanks for your action, Linda.

  8. Try harder the bags are still going to blow around if not put in bins properly the plastic bag needs to be stopped turtles and Marine life will still think biodegradable bags are jelly fish if they aren’t disposed of properly , we need to have a bag for shopping that we don t throw away too much oil is being wasted to make these bags this is our future stop plastic bags stop plastic bottles stop pointless covers of plastic over foods like apples oranges salad items ….. I am 5 and have picked up over 600 carriers from parks beaches fields and gardens I think the carriers should be stopped for ever …..

  9. This is a step in the right direction.
    However your objective should be removing all plastic from your packing, not just dodging the bullet by “making your plastic recyclable”.
    Plastic = oil based product
    Keeping fossil fuel in the ground and breaking our dependency on all fossil fuels has to be the objective if we are going to survive.

  10. Is there a way to find out what stores will be solely selling these? Also, when are these stores stopping selling the single use bags?

  11. Great work Iain.

  12. Fantastic news as I use these in my food caddy already. They are brilliant bags and stronger than you think. Well done!!

  13. I understood that some years ago our Co-op management changed over to degradable plastic bags which could be used over again before they degraded naturally after about 18 months ?

    • Hi Tom. We have done a number of smaller trials in the past so that may be it. Nevertheless, hope you welcome the news that we’re announcing today. Thanks, ^Ian

  14. that is a brilliant idea

  15. Should also look into stop useing palm oil products help save the planet

  16. Brilliant idea – now we just (!) need a national approach to recycling by councils. I am pleased that my council recycles as much as possible but until we have a universal approach so everyone can take part we won’t fully tackle the problem. Last night’s Gardeners World about black pots was fascinating and shocking, but like the Coop, some industries are taking steps.

  17. Should have gone back to old brown paper carrier bags

  18. We introduced a compositble bag several years ago in Wales. It was corn starch based. It was not very popular with our customers as they thought it not strong enough, although I had many customers who purchased them solely to use in their food waste caddy.
    Well done for re-introducing. Nation wide rollout please.

  19. For the attention of Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager

    Great stuff about introducing compostable carrier bags BUT have you checked with all the companies which process foodwaste/anaerobic digestion facilities that they don’t deem ANY kind of plastic bag to be contamination? We’ve been told by our local waste authority that all plastic bags would be deemed to be contamination… how do/would they sort which bags are compostable and which aren’t?

    Martin Cobley (Co-op member)

    Wandsworth Composting Project


    • Hi Mac. As the blog post notes, the number of stores using the new compostable bags will increase over time as more local councils start to collect food waste. We’ve worked closely with all the local authorities/councils where the bags will initially launch to confirm they able to collect and process food waste, including these compostable carrier bags. ^Ian


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