350 words approx. 2-3 minutes to read.

We know that packaging is a huge concern for our customers and members, especially the use of plastics. That’s why we are reducing the use of plastic in all of our own-brand packaging where possible, and where it is used, all packaging will be possible to recycle from June 2020, at home or through the collection of plastic film in selected Co-op stores.

What are Co-op doing to reduce plastic waste?

We’re making all our packaging possible to recycle at home or in selected Co-op stores, increasing our use of recycled plastic in packaging and where we can, removing plastic altogether.

Did you know?
Plastic film is thin and flexible packaging, and includes things like the plastic bags that pasta and rice come in, plastic bags around sliced bread, plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables, the plastic film on the top of yogurt pots and ready-meals, and plastic microwave pouches.

What have Co-op already done to reduce plastic waste?

Last summer we launched the first UK supermarket certified compostable carrier bag, removing 60 million plastic carrier bags from Co-op stores, but that was just the latest major innovation in plastic reduction. In 2008, we changed our cotton bud stems from plastic to cardboard (11 years before other UK retailers) and in the past few years, we’ve moved all our Co-op pizzas onto cardboard trays, removing un-recyclable polystyrene trays completely. This alone saved 200 tonnes of un-recyclable every year.

Did you know?
Black and dark coloured plastics aren’t easily detected in the recycling system and end up going to landfill or contaminating recycling bins, so we removed them from all our packaging last year.

How are Co-op going to further reduce plastic waste?

Already this year, we’ve fast-tracked our plans to make all Co-op branded packaging possible to recycle, at home or through collection points in selected Co-op stores, from June 2020.

I’m really excited about completing this to make recycling easier for our customers and members.

Iain Ferguson
Environment Manager

Read more about how we’re tackling plastic:

 

Join the conversation! 39 Comments

  1. I live on the Isle of Arran..where there are 3 Co-op Stores. The coastline is awash with plastic trash..a great deal of it is products from supermarkets and takeaways..which have floated there from mainland UK. There is no solution to this except the elimination of all this excessive packaging ..sadly let loose into the hands of irresponsible scum who throw it out car windows. Convenience shopping has become a poison in our lives if you have any value about the survival and beauty of our land. It was not like this half a century ago with simpler methods of dispensing food and products. Your Store should try and blaze a trail towards a better future.. with this problem..but you tip-toe around the edge of the issue .. doing as little as you can. Why not make History once more ? As your store once was set up to make shopping fair and accessible to the common man in more unequal times… hence the name The Co-operative.Now you look like all the other profiteering supermarket chains.. during a time of environmental crisis. Reduce your plastic packaging especially with the vegetables and fruit..which do not need to be so encased in it . It needs to be sorted back through the chain of supply…as the farmers must be packing it, They have to stop it. For Gods sake I recall beautiful food unwrapped when I was a kid at the old shops ..so how did it arrive to the greengrocers so intact.

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  2. I am wondering how your compostable bags are made? I know from an article that I’ve read that your compostable bags have been made to be used as food waste bags after initial purchase and use.
    I am an eco friendly florist and I use compostable bags to line some arrangements I make. Some compostable bags I’ve come to find, are not actually completely degradable and in fact breakdown into microplastics therefore defeat the object of reducing plastic waste into our environment. I’d be interested to know if your bags are completely biodegradable and could be used for future pieces I construct? Then it would stop me purposefully buying compostable bags and I’d feel better to purchase and reuse your compostable bags in a much more resourceful way.

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  3. I would love to buy more fresh veg from the Co-op but at the moment the range is limited to carrots which seem to be the only thing not covered in plastic which I refuse to buy , when will this change ? it is allright having biodegradable bags and cardboard pizza trays if everything else is covered in plastic

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  4. Unfortunately my local co-op in Barnards Green, Malvern is stop using single use 5p plastic bags and does not offer the compostable bags to reference. When will this change? It is very disappointing to see people still using the 5p plastic bags.

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  5. Fruit and veg need to be sold loose. I can’t believe you are still yet to do this

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  7. When visiting my local coop today I was over the moon to see them using the new compostable carrier bags which I purchased, but I was absolutely gob smacked to be told the we’re 6p each.
    If these are so much Better for the environment (which I completely believe they are) then why are coop charging an extra penny to use these.

    I could be completely wrong but I was under the impression that the charge for carrier bags was bought in to reduce plastic waste and encourage recycling.
    These bags are a fantastic idea but surely they should be at a cheaper rate not more expensive as they are fantastic for the environment.

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    • I save mine and use to line my external food waste bin. They are perfect and have kept that bin so much cleaner and whiff free

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  8. Well done .. but millions more need to be done ? My question is what happened to the 60 million plastic bags you got rid of from all your stores? … and fruit and vegs dont need bagging supply paper bags like they did years ago it worked then why wont it now!!! Just lazy people cant be bothered I simply wont buy any fruit and veg if it’s in plastic bags or containers it just not needed I deliver millions of fruit and veg every week to restaurants and no one piece has a plastic bag on it fruit and veg survive with out it !! How about putting all types of sweets chocolate in jars again to be weighted in to PAPER BAGS ? 10000000% it will stop littering it will remove millions of tons of plastic and it will also cut down on obesity cause I know 10000000% I know buy it cause it’s easy grab crap junk food but if it was behind the counter I wouldnt be as tempted !!

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  9. The Co’op may be working hard to reduce plastic but other food stores are very obviously doing more.
    I’d like to see fruit and veg sold loose with a scale machine to price your own so it doesnt hold up queues at tills. You could sell bags (as Sainsbury do) or brown paper bags.
    This would also be better for single people who don’t always want 2 avocado ( in a plastic tray covered with more plastic) etc

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    • I would really like this…I suggest a small deduction at the till for anyone who uses their own paper or recyclable plastic bags and containers for fruit and vegetables…carrots definitley work better than sticks!!

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      • I have suggested that members get extra points for using their own bags. Think that would be more incentive than charging. Either that or charge at least ,£1 for the 5p bags and £2 for the 10p ones. If you shopping is suddenly put up by a huge percentage because you couldn’t be bothered to bring your bags from the car then shame.

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    • And get rid of the plastic bags that are in store for people to them put loose fruit and veg in please! These could be swapped for paper bags as a minimum.

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    • Yes I absolutely agree, I find it really frustrating to see Co op promoting it’s push to reduce plastic when if you go to the store and look around there is so much plastic wrapped fruit and veg. It’s not necessary and surely selling all fruit and veg loose or at least not plastic wrapped would be an easy way to reduce the amount of plastic used. Co op is the main supermarket I use but I’ve actually stopped buying most fruit and veg there for this reason. I try to use the local greengrocer instead, all products are sold loose there so no need for plastic.

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      • Hear! Hear! I too have stopped buying plastic wrapped fruit and veg in my Coop store- Why oh why does swede need a plastic covering? Another major gripe is chopped kale. This is disgraceful as it reduces the food value and makes it impossible to clean properly
        Come on Coop get with the programme you’re currently tinkering at the edges

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    • Yes!
      I hope the Coop read these comments, Veronica!
      I’ve been sad that my buying of fruit and veggies involves so much plastic wrapping….
      I think your ideas are good….loose stuff works great and it’d be not a big deal for the till folk to weigh it….other places manage fine…
      Little by little things develop and work as a win win for both us and the planet 🥦😀

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  10. There’s a lot of packaging that says “widely recycled” but fails to say what it actually is. Our council only takes plastics marked 1, 2 or 3. It would be helpful to know what these “widely recycled” items are.
    When buying loose fruit and veg could we not have paper bags instead of plastic. They manage it on the continent. A member of staff weighs the bags and seals them with the price sticker.

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  11. Please ban the plastic fibre netting bags that you use for packaging for citrus fruits. They are a environmental and hygiene hazard and a terrible nuisance to clean up. They can’t be recycled, but worst of all, they have to be cut open with scissors, resulting in tiny plastic fibres falling on the floor, kitchen worktops and on the pieces of fruit. Whatever this material is, it’s very soft, which makes it cling to everything, and there is no way to open the bags without these fibres polluting my kitchen and remaining on the pieces of fruit. They are horrible! Please find a solution.

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    • I agree with Charlene. There is no need for any packaging around citrus. The skin on citrus fruits prevents them from bruising or drying out as with other fruits

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  12. “Our pizza trays are made from cardboard, saving 200 tonnes of non-recyclable polystyrene”

    You cannot recycle cardboard if it is contaminated with grease / oil – there have been times when the butter / oil has gotten onto the base.
    If people try to recycle this cardboard without checking its free from oil it can lead to larger batches of carboard being contaminated – see
    https://www.fswaste.co.uk/2018/02/can-pizza-boxes-recycled/ for more info.

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    • HEAR HEAR ROSI, Problem is cardboard/paper manufacture creates bigger poluution than plastics, I hear. A paper bag for instance has to be used many times before we get back it’s manufacture (wood etc) pollution contribution. I also suggets to all to break down all plastic containers and cardboard to a “flat pack” style. You’ll be surprised how much room will be created in your wheelie bin, as most plastic trays etc and card boxes are 80% plus of fresh air!!

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    • Rosi, if cardboard is used the ones contaminated with grease/oil can be put in landfill bin and will soon rot away in tip unlike plastic types. That becomes the duty on end user to sort not the Co-op, I am not protecting the Co-op as they along with others are very poor at cutting out waste be it plastics or food put in skip rather than sell off cheap on BBD. Our store only reduces some 400g cobs to 76p, some Co-op stores give away stuff not sold later in evening. Anything disposed of in skip should be taxed at 25% of full retail price, it would cut out waste and if the poor can be bothered they could get cheap or free food to prevent their kids going hungry as they claim. As a pensioner I eat a lot of that reduced food as the savings help pay my bills and I eat better than I could normally afford to, just have to put in a little more effort.

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  13. Why not just get rid of plastic carriers, take veg out of plastic altogether if it can’t be weighed or have a button on the till don’t sell it. Cuts out 2 sources of plastic straight away.

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    • If veg was harvested and distributed in the large plastic crates as picked and unwashed it would taste better, last longer and be cheaper. It would save on plastic bags, cost of massive processing plants, energy and water, we would also need a lot less EU cheap labour. I worked for a potato merchant/farmer in early 60’s, we grew lots of potatoes and carrots along with grain, daffodils and tulips for flowers and bulbs.

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  14. We have 3 Co-op shops in Brixham. They all do lose bananas but still a lot in plastic. Asking why they have the ones in plastic the answer is “We have to sell what we get delivered”. Why don’t stop it and why can plastic bags not be banned? Seems a bit hypocritical to me.

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    • Bring back paper bags and get rid of plastic ones or do as Lidl did and do their own brand of ultra lightweight net bag for loose fruit and veg

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  15. I do admire the efforts of the COOP in their quest to reduce packaging …..Own Brand!

    Now lobby the Manufacturers to ensure their packaging is suitable for recycling. There is a vast quantity which is not suitable. Put pressure on these Manufacturers. Build a cartel of Supermarkets to pressurise them into Less Packaging and Packaging that can be Recycled.

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  16. It would be good to know at which stores recycling facilities for plastic (including plastic bags) are, or will be, provided. My local store has REMOVED its plastic-bag collection bin.

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  17. I shop at a small independent Co-op near my village, and it is very good about trying to go ‘green’.
    But they still stock soft fruit – eg co-op blueberries – in plastic punnets. These containers take up so much room in the waste and are not recyclable where we live. Is the Co-op moving towards using cardboard punnets, like we used to have for soft fruit years ago??? Or maybe something even better, but not made of plastic?

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  18. My local Coop does have loose bananas, and I have never understood why things are done differently in different stores. It would appear to be easier to keep everything the same from one store to another. I was very pleased to see single avocados on sale, especially as I only want to buy one at a time, but disappointed to be told that it was a promotion and that they would be going back to packs of two in plastic.
    I support Coops efforts but have two concerns. The first is the time I spend trying to clean ready meal trays to recycle. The food is usually stuck on after cooking and I confess to giving up sometimes and to binnning them. Secondly, some plastic will decompose but of that, some will only decompose in compost bins, some in landfill and this gets complicated so are consumers likely to bin them to be on the safe side?

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  19. The Co-op is to be congratulated on moving swiftly to recyclable packaging but therein lies the rub, not all packaging is properly recycled, by the consumer or the local authorities. As with all else in this world there is no substitute for reducing the load, whether it be plastic packaging, electricity use, or anything else. So my message to the Co-op, and other supermarkets, is REDUCE your packaging. Too much of the Co-op’s vegetables and fruit is prepackaged and I am afraid I will not buy it, recyclable packaging or not. Where I live, in Ledbury, I am privileged to be still able to buy from a greengrocer, a butcher, a visiting fishmonger and a visting cheesemonger, all of whom are happy to put perishable produce into my own plastic boxes (that I have had for 10 years and counting). For the majority, who are less fortunate, the supermarkets must find a way to eliminate almost all packaging as I believe this is the only way we will achieve our goal of eliminating single use plastic. But recyclability is a start.

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  20. Having been asking why there is no loose bananas in my local store, i have been told today that they are no longer offering loose bananas and they will all come prepacked in plastic. Was the system of loose bananas not working for the coop?

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    • Just buy elsewhere. If you weigh the prepackaged bananas (priced by the number rather than the weight) and compare with the price of the loose ones (which yes you cannnot now get) you will discover how much you are paying for that wretched plastic bag. And beleive me you will be surprised at how much it is.

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  21. The compostable carrier bags were removed from my local co-op over four years ago. They were strong and very useful this is because of local government issues. Would the coop be able to lobby local government to reverse their policies?

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  22. Plastic is often bonded on to cardboard, paper and foil eg. Milk bottle seals. I don’t think that this is recyclable, so can it be stopped ?

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  23. Well done our Coops..
    I appreciate all what you’re doing. Can I get an answer to my question’.. When is the Coop 99 Fairtrade LOOSE tea coming back on shelves no branch seems to have it..

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    • The store I work at in Surrey has just this week got some stock of the loose tea back; the first since before Christmas, so hopefully you should see it at your local branch too if it used to stock it.

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  24. I am proud to say I do the majority of my shopping at Coop. Coop have good a good way of supporting the local community charity’s. I attend the Ryan MS therapy centre coulsdon.

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