It’s recycling Week, and my team, and lots of others across the Food business are working really hard towards the target we announced at our AGM in May.

When members voted for Motion 12 – to make 80% of our packaging ‘easy to recycle’ by 2020, and 100% in the future, it told us that packaging recyclability mattered to them, and gave us the mandate to keep doing more.

What changes have we made?

Just before the AGM we announced that we were changing all our pizza discs from polystyrene to recycled card. This will save 200 tonnes a year from landfill or incineration, and create 450 tonnes of recyclable card.

We’ve also made some great progress since the AGM, including:

  • changing all of the black trays on our Irresistible tomatoes to card, improving the recyclability and the presentation, and increasing sales too
  • changing the punnets on mushrooms from black plastic to blue, making them widely recyclable
  • trialling different types of recyclable protein packaging

These things have helped us move from 45% ‘easy to recycle’ packaging, to 69%, so we’re well on track to reach our 2020 target.

You can read more about our work with recycling, food waste and other issues that our members tell us matter to them, on our Food Matters pages.

Making recycling easier

Recycling isn’t always easy, and a lot of packaging goes un-recycled because of complexity – mainly around packaging wording and regional differences in collections.

The effort really is worthwhile though, as recycling conserves resources, saves energy, reduces landfill and helps protect the environment. It’s estimated that current UK recycling saves more than 18 million tonnes of Co2 a year – equivalent to taking 5 million cars off the road.

One of the best sites for finding out what can and can’t be recycled is Recycle Now. It has a handy ‘What to do with’ guide, so you can choose from hundreds of items including food, oil, aerosols, clothing, lightbulbs and even musical instruments – then add your postcode to see your local recycling arrangements.

Thanks for doing your bit, and Happy Recycling Week!

Iain Ferguson
Environment Manager – Food Policy

Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. Over the course of a two week period, I collected all the plastic food packaging that isn’t recyclable in my area and was aghast at the volume… for a family of four we filled a large bin liner. The irony is that most of this was recyclable plastic but just not in my area. I know we don’t want to be taking on the council’s responsibility for refuse but, given our community presence, is there an opportunity for us to offer recycling facilities at our stores? There are loads of people out there (like me and my family) who want better recycling provision close to home.
    BTW – When I look my collection of recyclable plastic to the local council “recycling” centre they said that I had to put it in with the general waste for incineration!

  2. I like that you are ‘trialling different types of recyclable protein packaging’.

    There is also quite a few plant based recyclable and biodegradable packaging now, such as Vegware and others.

    I try to buy things with not a lot of packaging, and Manchester Council don’t recycle plastic tubs or pots. What about more loose fruit and veg, that are priced similar to the pre packaged fruit and veg. Its ends up cheaper to buy a bag of apples than four loose ones.

    • I might have misread the above ‘recyclable protein packaging’.

      Do you mean packaging MADE from protein or packaging FOR protein?

      • Hi AJ,
        Sorry it wasn’t clear – we mean recyclable packaging for our protein items – mainly cooked and uncooked meats.
        Also great to hear you actively look for products with less packaging.

  3. I’ve just received two window display boards – wrapped in 4 sq metres of cardboard, 4 sq metres of bubble wrap, 4 black plastic corner protectors, 4 metres of medium density foam strips, about 6 metres of masking tape and about 10 metres of reinforced plastic packaging tape. I think we need to have a quiet word with Novograf.

  4. This is really good news. I’ll choose a product over another if the packaging doesn’t destroy the world.

    Is The Co-op also going to be reducing the use of PP plastic? LOTS of local authorities send that to landfill. PET and HDPE are better.

    • Hi Alex,
      Our materials are chosen after consultation with waste industry stakeholders. Most say that PP is their preferred material, as more than 75% of Council’s collect it. Sadly yours might be one that doesn’t.
      Thanks for your interest, and great to hear you try and choose recyclable packaging.

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