Food retailer Co-op begins packaging recycling scheme

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

Co-op has announced the launch of Europe’s most extensive in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and food product wrapping. 

The rollout of the scheme makes the convenience retailer the first UK supermarket to have fully recyclable food packaging.


Plastic waste turned into secondary products

Recycling units for ‘soft’ plastics will launch across 2,300 stores by November, which will collect:

  • Bread bags
  • Crisp packets
  • Single-use carrier bags and bags-for-life
  • Lids from ready meals and yogurt pots
  • Biscuit wrappers
  • Pet-food pouches.


The Co-op will also accept food packaging for products purchased in other food shops.

The food retailer estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the bins are fully in place. Instead of flooding landfill sites, going to incineration or being shipped overseas, the material is turned into post-consumer plastic granules. Jayplas, a recycling company, create useful secondary products from the granules, including: 

  • Bin liners
  • Buckets
  • Material for the construction industry.


Co-op provides a simple solution to the overwhelming problem of plastic waste

The Co-op team believes that the scheme will have full support from customers. A film collection trialed across 50 stores last year showed that 86% of shoppers were likely to use the recycling service.

“As we face into an environmental crisis, we know from our feedback that there is a universal appetite for change”, said Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO. “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.”

As part of a new partnership with ITV, the roll-out will be supported by a nationwide, multi-channel marketing campaign.

“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”, said Helen Bird, Strategic Technical Manager from WRAP. “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.”



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