We’re removing single-use plastic carrier bags from almost 1,400 Co-op Food stores and replacing them with the UK’s first compostable carrier bags that can double as liners for food waste caddies – another proud Co-op first in UK retail.

What’s a compostable carrier bag?

As you might expect from a carrier bag, our new compostable replacements can be used to take your shopping home. The Co-op difference we’re adding is a second use, meaning you can line your food waste caddy with a bin bag and it will biodegrade like the rest of your compostable waste. We’ll roll these bags out to 1,400 Co-ops in communities where the local council collects food scraps. This number will increase over time as more local councils start to collect food waste.

Some of the benefits of our compostable carrier bags are:

  • they’re the same size and strength as plastic carrier bags
  • they can be used as kitchen food waste caddy liners
  • their handles make them easier to use than ordinary kitchen food waste caddy liners
  • they completely biodegrade in compost systems that many councils use
  • they’re cheaper than buying kitchen food waste caddy liners, at just 5p each
  • more methane-generating food waste is diverted from landfill to compost systems
  • they save your local council money
  • the move to compostable carrier bags will take 339 tonnes of plastic out of circulation

Of course, we’ll still sell our 10p reusable bags for life, but these compostable bags are ideal for those times that you forget or you need something in passing.

How else are Co-op reducing single-use plastic?

Our new compostable carrier bags form part of a new ethical strategy ‘Future of Food’, which we’re launching on Thursday 27 September 2018.  Future of Food will also tackle food waste, healthy eating, energy saving and trading fairly. This vision has been developed to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

We are also committing to ban single-use own-brand plastic products, reduce our overall use of plastic packaging by 2023 and stop using hard to recycle materials, like black plastic.

In addition to our compostable carrier bags, today we’re committing to:

  • making all Co-op branded packaging easy to recycle by 2023, with 80% of packaging easy to recycle by 2020
  • eliminating single-use plastics used for packaging Co-op branded products, by 2023
  • using a minimum of 50% recycled plastic by 2021 in our: bottles (including PET or Polyethylene terephthalate and HDPE or polyethylene high-density), pots, trays and punnets
  • eliminating Co-op branded black and dark plastic packaging, by 2020

We’ve already taken a number of steps to reduce our plastic waste and we’ve also asked for our members to join in #TheCoopWay to help reduce waste.

Iain Ferguson
Environmental Manager

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Very glad this is happening, are the compostable bags bigger than the ones already currently in store as the ones we have? as it is hard to put a lot of shopping in them and heavy items have to be carried. Also what date will the bag change be?

  2. Does anyone know how long these compostable bags take to decompose?

  3. Very good point about the 2 sided cages having to use so much plastic just to send plastic and cardboard back. We need to address this as it seems we are taking I step forward and 2 steps back. Surely there must be a better way.

  4. Great move and good news. Not sure if the comment about being ‘cheaper than council’ bags is correct as we personally get ours free anyway. I hope that the comment about the strength of bag is correct – our council-provided compost bags are so flimsy it takes very little to split them, so we end up using 2-3 times as many, which defeats the object!

    • Hi Mel
      They are cheaper than the bags you have to buy yourself. We can’t do better than free I’m afraid, but we can do better than flimsy.


      • Thanks Ian. I was chatting to my partner about this last night and he was shocked we are charging for the reusable bags at all because the 5p Govt charge is only supposed to be mandatory for non-biodegradable plastic. So why are we charging at all for environmentally friendly ones?

        • we have these in store already, but at 6p, so I believe they are more costly to produce and cannot just hand them out, otherwise the coop would lose out on money, I think we probably wont even make a profit on these, as they may cost 5p to make, and still a lot cheaper then even buying a normal caddy liner from stores is about £2 for 10 or 15, so a huge saving where the council don’t supply them for free, but im sure that if we do make a profit on them, the profit margin from the bags will go into developing other ways to be more enviromentaly friendly

        • interesting comment as yes the levy is on single use bags and these clearly are not single use.

          however Why take money away from charity now that everyone is used to paying the soon to be 10p charge

        • Hi Mel
          The government charge is for all plastic, even these. To be exempt in England, we would have to use paper, but that is actually worse for the environment.
          These bags are expensive, so we make no profit on them.

  5. great news good move

  6. Good move- in line with the other companies who have agreed to do the same previously.

    Now to replace those PLASTIC Co-op Membership cards and stop sending out SOOOOO much paper advertisements and we may begin to look like we are becoming green.

    …oh also, still NO plastic recycling bins in Co-op, just paper bins.

    • How are people going to collect their membership benefits without a physical card?

      >You can add it to Google Pay (not sure about Apple Pay) however not everyone has this.
      > We could make an app, but not everyone has smartphones
      >We could make the member cards paper – these wont last long being taken out of purses wallets and swiped through the till over and over again.

      Unfortunately there are occasions where plastic is a necessity and without using it we risk alienating a portion of our customers.

      • loading the membership card onto phones just creates queues as our scanners cant scan a phone screen, it just does not work.

  7. Well done Coop!!

  8. This is fantastic news, well done Co-op. I believe that plastics are one of the biggest threats to our on-going environmental battle and while we do what we can at home large scale change has to be made in the entire manufacturing chain, even down to logistics using shrink wrap on pallets of goods…

    My only challenge is that the timescales on the “other” initiatives seem a long way off, is there nothing we can do to make this happen quicker? Surely making this a high priority would pay for itself in terms of positive publicity and brand awareness?

  9. Hi Iain
    l work in a Nottingham store
    l know we are reducing the use of plastic, but can you tell me and our Nottingham colleagues why we have taken the door and the back off some of the 4 sided cages so know we have to use plastic wrap to secure them so that we can send the cardboard and loose plastic back to the warehouse because if we don’t the drivers can not take them back.


    • When the four sided cages were removed they did communicate out this is due to the two sided versions being easier to fill for depots as they can get to both sides. A better compromise would be if maybe produce and meat lines still came in the four sided so stores have these to use for shipping waste back in.

      • …..or maybe even with a door on BOTH the front and back! More cost per cage initially though better in the long run.

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