The Co-operative to cut plastic bag use by 50%

18 December 2008

The Co-operative Group has pledged to cut single-use plastic carrier bag usage by 50% by spring 2009.

The Group is among the major supermarkets to have signed up to a Government agreement with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to meet the ambitious target to cut their provision by half compared with 2006 levels, when consumers used around 13 billion bags.

The agreement, signed yesterday (17 December), will save enough bags to fill 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools or the Royal Albert Hall one-and-a-half times, according to the Department for  Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Debbie Robinson, Director of Food Retail Marketing at The Co-operative Group, said: "The number of plastic bags given away at our stores has fallen by more than a third in the last 12 months. This is as a result of our policy, where staff are trained to ask customers if they actually need a bag and to encourage customers to re-use bags. The reduction is also thanks to the hugely encouraging response from our customers.

"A new campaign in our stores, starting in January, will use posters, point of sale material and in-store radio to highlight our bag policy, which should help us to meet the new target. Co-operative customers are also being offered a range of reusable bags including the Fairtrade Cotton Bag for a Better Life and a plastic bag for life, which we will replace for free and then recycle."

Commenting on the agreement with the BRC, Environment Minister Jane Kennedy said: "This is a bold commitment which will result in around five billion fewer bags being handed out.

"Supermarkets have already taken some imaginative steps to help us use fewer carrier bags and other high street retailers should look to them for inspiration.

"Of course, we can all play our part to reduce the number of carrier bags on our high streets and the Government will work closely with the BRC on a campaign to help us all to do so."

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Together with other environmental initiatives, supermarkets are meeting their existing commitment to reduce the environmental impact of bags by 25%.

"They're now volunteering an ambitious new target to help customers halve bag use by next spring. Supermarkets have been so successful in this by taking customers with them in ways they find acceptable, by encouraging and rewarding.

"This new partnership with the Government, underpinned by action across the retail sector, offers exciting new opportunities to help our customers across the UK to do the right thing. It's one more step
towards reducing waste and environmental impact."