By Michael Fletcher, Retail Chief Commercial Officer
I’m extremely pleased to announce that all our own brand packaging on every single Co-op product will be 100% recyclable by this summer. We have already banned black plastic packaging from all of our Co-op own brand products, and by the summer of 2020 we’ll be phasing out all non-recyclable plastics and replacing them with those that can be reused or easily recycled.
This move will be achieved by us delivering the largest ever UK-wide scheme to recycle all plastic film, which local councils don’t presently collect for recycling. After a spring store trial, the scheme will be rolled out nationally across our store estate by the summer.
This means that everything from ready meal trays, crisps packets, sandwich cartons and all film including pasta, rice and bread bags, will be easy to recycle whether via kerbside collection or our closed loop scheme in stores.
This is an industry first for the UK and it’s a key part of our Future of Food ambition – to source and create products with care and respect for the planet.
Doing something like this isn’t easy
We currently produce around 750 million pieces of plastic film ever year. The reason we use this plastic is because it plays a key role in protecting the shelf life and quality of our products in many different ways, and it’s essential to reducing food waste for us and our customers.
However, this film is currently not collected at kerbside, which we know it’s frustrating for our customers.
The UK produces around 2.3 million tonnes of plastic ever year, of which around only half gets recycled. There are many contributing factors to this, including packaging which isn’t designed to be easily recycled, or products containing a mix of recyclable and unrecyclable materials. This makes it difficult for people to know what can and can’t be recycled. Alongside this, not all local authorities and councils have the facilities to sort or manage recycling.
That’s why we’re making every single product simple to recycle.
It’s been a long journey to get here
Currently, almost three out of four of our own-brand Co-op products are now widely recyclable. In the last three years, we’ve removed almost 787 tons of plastic that can’t be recycled.
We’ve made huge leaps in our bid to tackle plastic consumption over the years:
- 13 years ago, we removed plastic stems from cotton buds before any other retailer
- We removed all microbeads from our products
- We no longer sell plastic straws in any of our stores
- In 2016, we swapped the plastic discs in our pizza boxes to recyclable cardboard ones, saving over 200 tonnes of polystyrene from going to landfill
- Last year, we were the first retailer to replace single use plastic bags with certified compostable carrier bags, removing 60 million single use carrier bags from circulation
Moving all our Co-op packaging into recyclable material and reducing the amount of plastic we use is a huge piece of work and I want to thank all the colleagues that are playing a part in delivering this for Co-op members and customers. We’ll keep updating you as we progress our plans towards our 2020 goal.