Co-op launches Europe’s most extensive collection scheme for plastic bags, crisp packets and food wrappings

09 July 2021

Co-op has today (Friday, 9 July) announced the launch of Europe’s most extensive in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and product wrapping. The rollout of the scheme is set to see the convenience retailer become first UK supermarket to have fully recyclable food packaging by the end of this month (July) and, help tackle the confusing postcode lottery of kerbside collections.

Recycling units for ‘soft’ plastics will launch in 1,500 Co-op stores this month (July) and 2,300 stores by November. The initiative ensures all Co-op’s own food packing is easily recyclable by establishing an accessible disposal route for materials which are unlikely to be collected by UK councils, including: crisp packets, bread bags, single-use carrier bags and bags-for-life, lids from ready meals and yogurt pots, biscuit wrappers and pet-food pouches.

The in-store units – which also accept packaging for food products purchased in other retailers - means that all of Co-op’s own food packaging is easy-to-recycle either via kerbside collection or through the in-house closed loop system. The retailer estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the bins are fully in place.

The national roll-out of the scheme follows a successful 50 store film collection trial last year which found that 86% of shoppers were likely to use the service.
It is also designed to reassure concerned communities that the plastics collected will be recycled in the UK. The recyclable material is turned, by Jayplas*, into post-consumer plastic granules which are then made into useful secondary products – including: bin liners; rigid products such as buckets, and material for the construction industry - rather than flooding land-fill sites, going to incineration or, being shipped overseas.

In some areas, less than 30 per cent of waste from households is currently recycled, with systems which can vary from council to council adding to the confusion. Estimates from WRAP suggest that just 6% of plastic bags and wrapping from UK households is recycled each year, while (by weight) it makes up around a fifth of all plastic packaging. The elimination of unnecessary plastics is balanced against the need to minimise food waste.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO, said: “As we face into an environmental crisis, we know from our feedback that there is a universal appetite for change. Which is why we are making it easier for thousands of households to recycle all of their plastic food packaging. This will not only prevent unnecessary waste but also reduce plastic pollution. By offering a simple and convenient solution to an everyday issue, we believe we can help communities to make small changes, that together will add up to a big difference for our environment.”

Helen Bird, Strategic Technical Manager from WRAP, said: “There’s no doubt that unnecessary plastic needs to be reduced; including bags and wrapping which is a fifth of all consumer plastic packaging. However, where it is necessary it is urgent to design it for recycling and ensure recycling systems are in place. It’s great to see the roll out of collections across Co-op’s stores significantly contributing to the goal of The UK Plastics Pact for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2025. Not only is the Co-op ensuring that the service is widely promoted, it is processing the material within the UK, demonstrating how we can build back better for the economy and environment.”

The roll-out will be supported by a nationwide, multi-channel marketing campaign – as part of a new partnership with ITV, a new Co-op TV Ad will debut during the Coronation Street ad-break this evening (Friday, 9 July).

Co-op has always been at the forefront of removing hidden plastic and unnecessary packaging, from removing plastic stems from cotton buds before any other retailer 14 years ago, banning microbeads and, removing black (so called ‘vanity’) plastic from shelves in 2019.

In May, Co-op unveiled its new ten-point climate plan which sets out a blueprint for the retailer to achieve net zero for its direct and indirect carbon emissions by 2040, including offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions of Co-op products and services.

Further information:

Please contact Victoria Simons or Andrew Torr in Co-op Press Office.

Victoria Simons
Co-op Press Office
M: 07738621076

Andrew Torr
Co-op Press Office
M: 07702505551

Notes to editors:

__*About Jayplas - __Jayplas was established in 1975 and with almost 40 years' experience in the plastic recycling industry, is the UK market-leader in post-consumer recycling. Its core business is: Collecting, sorting and processing industrial quantities of a whole variety of used plastics into feed stocks for packaging companies and, manufacturing a diverse range of plastic bags using specialist plant located at a number of our sites. By working attentively with its clients, and investing in leading-edge processing technology, it can - and does - deliver managed, convenient and efficient recycling solutions. It provides customers with the opportunity to 'close the loop' by taking businesses' waste plastic material and returning it to them in a re-usable form. This practice: helps maximise returns by treating customers waste as a resource; enhances 'zero-waste to land fill' drives and, reduces carbon footprints.

__About Co-op - __Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance and legal services. Owned by over 4 million UK consumers, the Co-op operates 2,600 food stores, over 800 funeral homes and provides products to over 5,100 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited.  Employing over 60,000 people, the Co-op has an annual turnover of £10 billion. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Co-op is a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes. The Co-op exists to meet members’ needs and stand up for the things they believe in.  When Co-op Members buy Co-op branded products and services, they receive a 2p for every pound spent reward, and the same amount is donated to its Local Community Fund for local causes and a new Community Partnerships Fund, intended to support communities through like-minded national charities and organisations.