Switching all our bottled water to 50% recycled plastic

It’ll mean our Co-op still, sparkling and flavoured water will move to a different type of bottle – saving almost 350 tonnes of plastic annually! The bottles will look a bit greyer and cloudier than customers are used to – and when compared to bottles with less or no recycled content. But, it is the same great water, and will be a clear alternative for today’s ethically-conscious consumer.

The bottles, which will be in store later this year are sourced in the UK and will also be 100% recyclable too.

Jo Whitfield, Chief Executive, Co-op Food, said:

 “By working closely with our supply and waste-value chains we can find new ways of sourcing sustainable alternatives. Our customers expect us to respond to this challenge and help them make more ethical choices, and we’re dedicated to doing just that. Making these changes will also create new uses for recycled materials which in turn gives our customers greater confidence in recycling. We’re constantly listening to our members and customers, understanding what they need, where and when they need it, and we’re committed to continuing to explore the opportunities.”

Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager at the Co-op, told us:

“We are the first retailer to unveil these plans, which is estimated to save around 350 tonnes of plastic a year. Suppliers are working hard to make the bottle clearer – but in the meantime, our bottles will wear this greyish colour which I see as a ’badge of honour’ – we are part of the market for recycled products, and we are proud of that.”

Reducing the environmental impact of products is at the heart of what we do at Co-op. At last year’s AGM our members overwhelmingly supported our ambition to make 100% of our product packaging easily recyclable.

We recently announced that we’re brewing up a fully biodegradable paper tea bag for our iconic 99 tea brand, making us the first retailer to fix the problem of plastic waste from the nation’s favourite beverage.

We also plan to rid our aisles of so-called ‘vanity’ black and dark coloured plastic by 2020. This plastic is harder to detect by sorting machines due to its pigment and also contaminates the recycling stream, reducing the usefulness and value of the recovered material. It’s estimated it adds at least 30,000 tonnes of plastic each year to waste.

As well as being friendlier to the environment, let’s not forget that Co-op water also continues to make a difference in communities at home and abroad. We donate 3p for every litre sold of Co-op branded water to The One Foundation and, 1p for every litre sold of branded water to Water Unite.  Last year we gave over £1.7 million to fund clean, safe, water projects.

Check out our blog for more information.



Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. How about making the tea bags unbleached as well as bio degradable?

  2. Well done, It all helps 🙂 I would like to see our shops getting involved in free water points. Is this already being investigated? … refill.org.uk

  3. Glass? With a deposit? Worked well here and still works in France!

  4. Though this is a fantastic step forward, as a Funeralcare staff member its noted that we have NO opportunity to recycle on site or at our care centres. We throw away literally tons of cardboard packaging, glass bottles, plastic milk bottles and wood waste monthly. Surely as an ‘ethical’ company shouldn’t the higher echelons of management at AS be providing us with this opportunity?

  5. Has anyone ever thought about boxed water? It is something I have seen companies doing in America.. not sure if we have it over here but surely that would be a great alternative?

  6. Maybe we could offer a voucher or money off if you bring a carrier bag full of plastic bottles!

  7. There should be NO plastic packaging 🙁

  8. Not good enough , we need to be moving to 100% recycled and recyclable bottles , we are killing this planet and the seas and animals – fix these things now , trail blaze , don’t just think in half measures !!!

    • Thanks for your feedback.

      There are a couple of issues with moving to 100% recycled. One is that in any recycling system and process there will be losses. So while 100% rPET is possible, it may not be the optimal level.

      The bigger issue is that there isn’t enough recyclate available to make 100% bottles. We’ve had to make firm contracts to ensure 50%. Making the 50% statement is about challenging our customers to accept grey coloured plastic bottles, and about saying very firmly that we are a market for more recyclate. Saying we are in the market for recyclate tells recyclers that it’s worth investing in collection and reprocessing. The bottles are 100% recyclable.


  9. How about Co-op having recycling bins outside stores to help people recycle more and further bring about cultural change of our members and customers?

    • It’s a fact that supermarket recycling centres are being used less than ever before, due to the rise in kerbside collections. This cultural change, where it hasn’t happened yet, needs to happen at home. There is very little point in us giving over space to this. Certain manufacturers could make it clearer on their packaging where they can be recycled, and also taking the steps the Co-op is also taking above. .

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