By Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager
I’ve worked as our Environment Manager for 14 years, and it’s my job to ask difficult questions and to keep pushing our packaging and waste agenda, to protect the planet we share.
The issue of plastic use is a complex one and can cause heated debate. On one hand, the material has revolutionised the grocery market – it’s cheap, it can help protect food better (thus reducing food waste) and makes packaging much lighter and more convenient. However, if it’s not properly recycled or disposed of, it can cause significant harm to our environment and wildlife. Together, we must find better ways to reduce single use plastic consumption and increase recycling.
In this week’s episode of our In it together podcast, I joined Yasmin Evans and Anita Rani from the BBC to talk plastic: the good, the bad and the ugly.
The little ways you can make a difference
During the podcast, we had a great discussion about how you can reduce your plastic consumption and recycle smartly with some easy and simple wins anyone can do at home.
We shared some simple ideas such as switching from plastic soap dispensers to classic soap bars and remembering to take your bags for life / cotton bags to the supermarket with you when you go shopping, so you don’t have to rely on single use plastic bags.
At Co-op, we’re leading the industry in terms of plastic and recyclability. It’s something our members and customers are passionate about, and through our AGM voting, we know they want recyclable or reusable packaging. In my role, I’ve been working to remove unnecessary plastic from products for years, and we’ve already made such great progress. We removed plastic sticks in cotton buds in 2006 and replaced the plastic disc that was used in our tissue boxes with cardboard a year later, doing the same thing with our pizza trays in 2018.
We were also the first national retailer to introduce compostable carrier bags in 2008 (with a relaunch in 2018). We’ve made some incredible leaps and big strides, but there’s always more we can do and need to do.
Change takes time and co-operation
As a business, we need to balance our use of good vs bad plastic. We need to think carefully about where and when we need to use plastic, and constantly ask ourselves if it adds value and, if it doesn’t, remove it.
As consumers, we need to challenge ourselves to think about our own plastic consumption and how we use it. If you have something made of plastic in your possession, reuse it as much as possible. If you plan to buy something new, think carefully about its future use and how often you can reuse it.
My final call out is if your council doesn’t collect or recycle all types of plastic or even food waste, speak to them and push them for answers as to why. If we want to co-operate for a fairer world, we need to do it together with everyone behind us.
I hope you enjoy this episode. You can listen now by streaming on personal devices via Apple, Spotify and on Acast. If you enjoy them, please feel free to share the podcasts with your social networks via Social Hub too.
Next week Yasmin is discussing all things veganism with chef Rachel Ama and YouTuber Gaz Oakley with our very own Katharine Shipley, Head of Innovation of our Delicious Food Team.