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Co-op was the first UK retailer to launch certified compostable carrier bags, back in 2007, rolling them out to a larger number of stores in 2018. They proved such a success, that we’re rolling them out to all our stores from May. Jo Whitfieldour Food CEO, explains why they’re better for the planet, plus her top tips on how to use them correctly. 

In 2021, we want to make it easier than ever for our customers to do their bit for their community and the planet. At Co-op, we believe that lots of small ​changes can make a huge impact – and there’s no better time to start than today.   

Why compostable? 

Sales of single-use plastic carrier bags have dropped by more than 95% in England’s main supermarkets since the carrier bag charge was introduced. This is brilliant, but there’s always more that we can do.  

That’s why we’re making big changes to our bag policy, by totally changing the way we approach plastic bags. Firstly, we’ll be removing all ‘Bags for Life’ from our stores. At the same time, we’re rolling out our certified compostable bags across all our stores from May. It’s a fantastic achievement and I hope it paves the way for positive change in other retailers. Plus, we’ve recently redesigned the bags to make it clearer how to use them — so they’re easy to spot! 

So far, the introduction of compostable bags has removed around 55 million single-use plastic bags from circulation. That’s fantastic. Customers are now able to purchase a low-cost, lower-impact alternative bag that’s better for the planet and offers a second use, too! 

Making sure we’ve got a sustainable single use bag as part of our offer to all our members and customers in store is based on the evidence we’ve gathered, but of course it’s so important that we all get better at remembering our reusable bags. When you need to replenish your fleet of reusable bags, you can rest assured that we’ve got a range of options to suit your needs that are all made from fully recycled plastic, and that can all be recycled again when they eventually reach the end of their lifespan.  

How to use your compostable bag 

The new bags are certified as being suitable for food waste collections, and tested to show that they are suitable to use in home-compost bins. If you live in an area that offers a food waste collection service, simply use your compostable bag to line your food waste caddy.  

If your council currently doesn’t offer a collection service (all councils will have to do so eventually), you can simply reuse the bag as you would any other plastic bag. We only ask that you don’t put it in the recycling bin, as it will contaminate the recycling stream. You could also write to your Local Authority to encourage them to introduce food waste collections sooner rather than later. 

What can you do? 

There are lots of easy but significant changes you can make today that will have a better impact on the environment:  

  • Remember your reusable bag whenever you pop to the shops 
  • If you forget your reusable bag, switch from plastic carrier bags to Co-op compostable bags. Or, if you don’t live near a Co-op and can’t get your hands on our compostable bags, remember to reuse any plastic carrier bags as much as possible to reduce their negative impact on the planet.  
  • If you haven’t already, check whether your council offers a food waste collection service and start using a food waste bin.  
  • If your area doesn’t offer a food waste collection, why not try home composting instead? It can help to improve your soil and provides numerous environmental benefits.  
  • Try to cut down your food waste as much as possible to limit its effect on the planet (when food waste ends up in landfill, it rots and releases greenhouse gases). Discover tips on how to reduce your food waste here.  

We’re thrilled to see the roll-out of compostable bags across all Co-op’s stores. It’s a significant milestone in our mission to reduce persistent plastic use and complements our work to make all our packaging easy to recycle by 2021. Over the past three years, we’ve moved from 46% of our products being easy to recycle to 78%, and we are now working hard to complete that work to reach 100% easy to recycle food packaging.  

Find out more about Co-op’s carrier bags as well as how we’re making all of our food packaging recyclable and reducing unnecessary plastic use. 

Jo Whitfield 
Co-op Food CEO  

Join the conversation! 25 Comments

  1. These bags smell disgusting

  2. My son bought a recyclable bag from the Co-op (10p ) and it broke immediately. I’m in favour of these bags but not if they break straight away .

  3. Hi what is the smell? The bags genrally have a horrid smell to them to the point they made me feel very unwell and want to be sick for the rest of the day.

  4. Hi, The compostable carrier bag is also tested and approved for home composting in a well-managed compost bin. ^Cat

    • SCambs Council refused to take my bin because I used one of your compostable bags as suggested. This is what they said when I complained
      Thank you for your email.
      Compostable or bio-degradable ( plastic ) corn starch linder cannot be accepted in green bins because they do not compost quickly enough for our fast composting process.

      It is important to keep these items out of your green bin as it can mean that whole loads of waste can be rejected, or cost lots of time and money to separate

      Many Thanks,

      Kind Regards
      | Business Support Officer

  5. People like to moan even when something piratical has been brought into use. These bags are brilliant for food waste, well done Co-Op. And Alan what a moaner. They have killed two birds with one stone with this. Brilliant Idea.

  6. What is wrong with using paper bags like greengrocers usedfordecades?

    • I do agree as Iceland and Boots are using paper bags. I do believe though that the brown ones used by Boots do have a toxin in them as a result of the brown colour they are.

    • Yes, you’re on the right track here because Iceland and Boots are both using paper carrier bags. I do believe that Boots brown paper bag is not totally environmentally friendly due to the brown dye.

    • I agree – both Iceland and Boots are using paper carrier bags now.

  7. So – are these only compostable in commercial composting, or can they be home composted – there is a BIG gap in labelling here…

  8. This is to be welcomed, but the Co-op has a long way to go in reducing single-use plastic. I am tired of fruit and veg packed in plastic trays and wrapped in cellophane! Bring back loose fruit and veg and encourage people to use their own fruit/veg bags. Other supermarkets are doing this. Sadly the Co-op is lagging behind 🙁

  9. Great step!

    I think to make the rationale clearer, add that the 95% reduction in sales is for traditional “single use” bags affected by the 5p charge, bags for life aren’t included in this figure.

    For anyone who can’t compost they can try or the share waste app and see if anyone locally accepts waste for their own compost heap

  10. You’ve written all that but not even bothered to tell us the size on the new bags compared to the old. Will two bags of shopping now become four bags?

  11. 🙌 ^Scott

  12. Thanks, Isabel! ❤️ ^Scott

  13. Absolutely fantastic news , well done , PLEASE extend this to recycleable packaging on all items , many thanks Linda.

  14. This statement is a lie. My local co-op states they cannot provide these bags as the local councils do not have the recycling facilities for these so to state all co-ops are going to do them is false.

  15. terrific

  16. Being compostable does not mean they ARE composted by customers. It may be a step forward but manufacturing compostable bags still requires energy and raw materials that need not be consumed if you remove all plastic bags, of whatever kind altogether and require customers to provide their own reusable jute or cotton bags, that, while subject to the same environmental impacts, do have a far greater life span.
    I shop at my local Co-op, although I buy nothing packed in single use plastic, and am irritated if checkout operators ask if Ineed a bag. WHY? Also there are always piles of plastic bags at self-service checkouts that I am willing to bet are infrequently if ever paid for.
    It is all a matter of reducing use of materials and energy. There is no alterntive, so why waste time and money on pandering to lazy customers?

    • As a co-op employee, Alan, we ask if customers need a bag as it is called being polite. Prior to the pandemic we would even pack for you.

      • There are more ways to be polite than to offer a customer a single use plastic bag. Are you telling me that all checkout operators always ask if you want a bag, out of politeness, and not because you are trained to. I do not believe that. Besides, which is more important to reduce waste, or to ‘be polite’ and offer a plastic bag? Get real man and find other less damaging ways to be polite.

  17. Thank you to the Coop for setting a good example! Hope others will follow. Continue the good work in seeking new ways to make a difference!


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