Compostable carrier bags will be on offer instead of their plastic equivalents to shoppers in Co-op stores across Scotland and the UK as the supermarket chain introduces a ban on single-use plastic.
The move is part of a new ethical strategy to be launched by the chain later this week, aiming to tackle plastic pollution as well as food waste, healthy eating, saving energy and trading fairly.
Other supermarkets have recently announced plans to tackle plastic pollution with Waitrose pledging to get rid of traditional plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables and 5 pence single-use bags from its stores by next spring.
Aldi, which is starting to use recyclable clear trays on its fresh fruit and vegetables said this will save approximately 265 tonnes of plastic a year. It has also committed to ensuring all its packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
The Co-op’s strategy sets out how the chain will ban single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce use of plastic packaging within five years, as well as ditching hard to recycle materials such as black plastic.
The plan will see around 60 million 5p plastic carrier bags taken out of circulation and replaced with eco-friendly alternatives each year in a phased rollout.
They will be on offer in almost 1,400 Co-op food stores across Scotland, England and Wales in the first phase of the scheme, initially in locations where the bags are accepted in food waste collections.
The Co-op’s pledge on plastic will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023.
It has also promised to use a minimum of 50 per cent recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021. All dark plastic packaging, including black ready-meal trays, will be eliminated from own-brand products by 2020.
Jo Whitfield, Co-op retail chief executive, said: “The price of food wrapped in plastic has become too much to swallow, and from today the Co-op will phase out any packaging which cannot be reused.
“The first step to remove single-use plastic will be to launch compostable carrier bags in our stores.”
Ms Whitfield added: “We face huge global challenges and have created a recipe for sustainability to source responsibly, treat people with fairness and produce products which have minimal impact on the planet.
But Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said that the Co-op needed to do more to increase its ‘green credentials’.
“The Co-op has pledged to stop using non-recyclable plastic in their packaging, and this is a good thing.
“But they have not pledged to ban, or even reduce, single use plastic packaging or products.
“Their statement makes it sound as though they are matching Iceland’s ambition to eliminate throwaway plastic packaging from their own brand range within five years.
Ms Edge added: “However, when you read the small print, they are actually only pledging to get rid of non-recyclable plastics, something other supermarkets have pledged to achieve by 2025. We urgently need a steep reduction in plastic waste of all kinds.”