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From making it easier to recycle our packaging to reducing food waste, we’re always working to minimise the impact we have on the environment, Ethics, Sustainability & Policy Officer Jess Collins explains  

From our farmers and producers to the food we rely on, climate change is having a real impact on our global food system. At Co-op, we view it as our responsibility to not only limit our contribution to climate change as much as we can, but to do our very best to actively look after our planet. It’s going to be a long journey, but there are a number of targets we’ve actioned this year that we’re really proud of. So, here are five good things we’ve achieved in 2021 – and may there be many more to come!

There are lots of small things we can all do to help the planet, so keep following our channels for ideas on how you can make a difference.

1. We set out our 10-point plan to tackle climate change

Over the years, our members have asked us to formally respond to the climate emergency through policy change. This year we’ve been able to set out our 10-point plan for how we promise to tackle climate change and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. As well as changing the way we do business, we want to make it easier for our customers to make lower-carbon choices. Read more about the 10-point plan.

2. All Co-op packaging is recyclable thanks to our soft plastic recycling units in-store

We’re pretty excited about the launch of our new recycling units in-store. They’re designed for the soft plastics you normally can’t recycle at home – things like bread bags and crisp packets. This means that between your recycling bins at home and our recycling units in-store, all Co-op packaging is now recyclable!

3. We cut the price of our vegan GRO range to make the plant-based choice more affordable

We don’t think people should be priced out of eating plant-based. So this year we cut the price of our vegan GRO range to match its meat and dairy counterparts. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or just looking to introduce more plant-based foods into your diet, we want to make it easier for you to do that. Take a look at our full GRO range and read more about the price reduction here.

4. We removed bags for life from all our stores (and replaced them with compostable bags instead)

We all know that plastic bags are damaging to the planet, so we decided to make a serious change to our bag policy – we’ve removed bags for life from all stores and replaced them with certified compostable bags instead. 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!  Simply use it to line your food waste caddy or as a home compost liner.

5. We launched 100 new community fridges across the UK to tackle food waste

Reducing food waste is one of our top priorities. That’s why we’ve partnered with award-winning charity Hubbub, which coordinates the world’s largest community fridge network, with over 150 incredible fridge hubs running across the UK. These fridges are special. Not only do they provide a place where local residents can share and access surplus food donated by local food businesses (reducing tonnes of food waste every year), many of the fridges also provide budgeting and healthy cooking advice, wellbeing and family support, and digital inclusion training – empowering people to develop knowledge and skills that will enrich their lives.

This year, we’re adding 100 more fridges to the network, saving an expected 6.8 million meals a year from going to waste. And we’re just getting started!

Find out more about Co-op’s commitment to the environment, from packaging and recycling to food waste.

Jess Collins
Ethics, Sustainability & Policy Officer 

Join the conversation! 31 Comments

  1. Not being funny here, we all go on about reducing plastic waste etc, what about the ridiculous netting packaging that we buy oranges in? I really hate to think what that does to the wildlife and environment, so seriously why not do something about these things too?

    But I’ve not yet noticed any plastic recycling at my CO-OP though

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    • Yes, plastic netting on onions and citrus fragment into tiny pieces which get washed down the drains and into our waterways. They are so tiny you may not even notice that when you use scissors to cut into the nets the tiny fragments stick to the scissors and sprinkle over the work top

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  2. In Greater Manchester only plastic bottles are recycled so there is an issues with Coop packaging that is rigid with symbol 1 on it. I have to pass these to a friends who lives in Calderdale where all sorts of plastic are recycled. Full marks to Coop for doing this plastic recycling – at least it means there is less going in our bin.

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  3. Coop’s compostable bag is really a good start ahead of its peers especially competitors. In fact, plastic recycling units in store can be developed into another form of loyalty scheme to attract more customers, by rewarding some points for certain total amount of items&/times to recycle at Coop’s stores and rewarding more points for shopping at Coop’s stores just within a short period (eg. no longer than 5-15 minutes) before/after/during people’s visit for recycling plastics at Coop’s stores. The types of plastic recycled at Coop’s stores do not need to be expanded to many at first to start out, and are better to be kept just one to only few at the beginning so the recycling idea can be simple&easy to be implemented and run smoothly before the whole process gets more mature&complex. Besides such a different form of loyalty scheme which although starts out originally from kindness and sincere care for the environment&all the beings to do sth. good, it will also be better if Coop can cooperate&partner with some other recycling business companies/organizations/departments/charities that are professional in recycling plastic, and directly provide the latter the plastic needed for recycling business – And Coop can even make some profit as a direct provider of the plastic assembled to be recycled.

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  4. We`ve been banging on about environmental issues since the `70s.And I`m sure there were some enlightened ones even before then. No one was listening then and they aren`t REALLY getting it now-they don`t believe it`s as bad as it is. AND having waited until it`s an emergency to even think there maybe something in what all these organisations and scientists are on about, our systems cannot be changed fast enough. Who`s `they ? Most of the ordinary folks that are our neighbours and even our friends and family and most of the people in positiions of power! Talking about recycling boxes? well- it`s all part of it but it seems so trivial compared to where we have to go and what we have to do.

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  5. Been collecting crisp packets rather than throwing them out for the past year as there was supposed to been a recycling centre at Asda orbital (Swindon) but no longer does it and with lockdown etc. Now if its correct that Co-op does recycle them then I can empty the boot of my car.

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    • I do the same Jon. I’ve had an email that waxed bread wrappers such as Warburtons use will soon be recycled. For now, I’m saving them in the garage until I have a notification as to where I can recycle these.

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    • I place mine in my Council food waste collection as they have been in contact with food and is cardboard like. My local council accepts pizza boxes and cake boxes so I don’t see the difference in this item.

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      • I wasn’t sure what you meant about putting something in the food waste collection. What do you mean “been in contact with food and is cardboard like?” What do you mean about your local council accepting pizza boxes and cake boxes? If there’s only a bit of food on cardboard or cake boxes then a wipe down is all that’s needed and these can be recycled with your card/newspaper.

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        • My comment was directed at Jon. The cardboard like sleeve in certain Warburton products is what I’m referring to.
          Pizza boxes and Cake boxes can be containmented and can’t be recycled due to this. Most pizzas in leave a oily redisue on the box and the cake boxes may have cream, custard and other cake textures on it. I do like your idea of “wiping” – I don’t think it would work for pizza and cake boxes though. I live in RCT Council so if you go on the website and view the recycling and food waste section, you will find further information.

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          • Ally I can assure you that a bit of cream or oil etc. means the cardboard can be briefly put in sudsy water to remove the residue and then put in the paper / board recycling bin. The other paper or card will dry off the excess water. Perhaps my reference to wiping suggests that I was not cleaning off the residue properly.

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  6. Well done coop on your soft plastic recycling bins. I used to feel really guilty having to put it in the household waste. I make sure I wash all my soft plastic bags and crisp packets prior to putting them in your soft plastic bin, thank you, on behalf of my grandchildren, for helping our planet.

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    • I do exactly the same Mel. I wash them all prior to washing the dishes. Great that this type of plastic can now be recycled as there is a lot of it when you think about it. When I went to the deposit containers for these it seems the message is popular as I just about got mine in.

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  7. Is there any way they will be bringing back the Britta water recycling boxes back in store? TIA

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  8. With the soft plastics, is this for any brand or Co-op brand only?

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  9. Dear Ms Collins

    Like many people, I am delighted to see that the Co-op has introduced Soft plastics recycling.

    However, it needs to be clarified WHICH soft plastics can be recycled using the in-store bins.

    Do these accept ALL soft plastic films?

    If not, which particular plastics are acceptable?

    It would be helpful if you could list these using the “triangle and number” symbols, e.g. “LDPE 4”.

    It would also help if the Co-Op printed the relevant “triangle and number” symbol on all plastic packaging.

    I hope these suggestions are useful.

    Yours sincerely

    Mr N. Walden

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  10. Hi it’s a great idea about the recycling facilities outside your shop and I try to do this once a week. Unfortunately every time I go to do this the box is full and over flowing with other rubbish. It doesn’t look like my local store care or empty it.

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    • I have the same problem

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    • Any of the Co-op stores that I go to for the soft plastic recycling have the bins inside the store. My only concern is that they are too small and each time I go they’re practically full up. Are there any plans to install larger bins?

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  11. Brilliant idea to have fridges. Well done. Also on the recycling front too.

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  12. I would like to see your compostable bags made so that they can BE HOME COMPOSTED.. At the moment there is a problem. They get mistakenly put into soft plastic recycle bins and mess-up the load. If the local Authority in any given area doesn`t have commercial composting they just end up in landfill anyway. It`s very frustrating that I CAN`T PUT THIS TYPE OF BAG IN MY COMPOST HEAP!!Does the Coop answer these points ?

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  13. Can you Help? With the Greenpeace Tesco Campaign? Thank You & Very Kind Regards! Dear Human Earthling’s of The Co-Op you are on the right path and it looks like you may have wakened up with regards to sustainability so Well Done for that! Livingston being The Land of the Living Dead see’s other larger Supermarket Chains trailing behind the Co-Op particularly with the Compostable Bio Degradable Carrier Bags! Just to impress upon this issue, I take and use the Co-Op Bio Degradable Bags in ASDA and that draws some worried looks but all ASDA need to do is follow the Co-Op’s Lead – There’s more than a few others too that are guilty of being Asleep & Sheep Type Human Earthling’s! Where can I bang their Heads? Where? Unbelievable. Take Care Folks & Keep Safe Always.

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    • Hi Warren I’ve taken part in the Greenpeace Tesco Campaign – I went to the Tesco Express store in Radcliffe. I’m hoping to do a couple of other Express stores that I’ve had details of from Greenpeace.

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      • That’s Brilliant Christina! The Human Earthling’s at Tesco are in need of some Environmental Education not to mention more than a few others! – Dear Human Earthling’s Please Wake Up Climate Change is Very Real. Human Universe By The BBC & Presented by Professor Brian Cox
        explains how the Human Earthling’s are using up the Earth’s Natural Resources at an alarming rate Brilliant DVD which you can get on-line via amazon probably. I wonder how Planet Earth would look if it was the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Professor Brian Cox, Sir Martin Lewis, Greenpeace, all the green political parties of the UK & all environmental type organisations. If Only! Let the Scientists and Green’s of the UK take control! lol! If the Politicians were actually any good at their jobs, would the UK be in the mess it’s in? Take Care Kind Mam – Keep Safe Always!

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        • So many misguided and hypocrites, especially in the BBC. Even if DVDs were recyclable, they still take energy and resources to produce. They’re essentially single use plastics. Stream the content. It’s 2021…

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          • This is a very relevant comment LDAK and is something I’d not thought of. I think in this case streaming content does make a lot of ecological sense. I was about to buy some DVDs of music from the past but I won’t now in view of this.

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          • stream the content you say? all very well and good if you can get good internet, if you can’t then you can’t stream, I can barely watch Amazon Prime at times cause of my poor connection

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