The Co-op is rolling out recycling collection points for plastic bags and product wrapping to thousands of stores to tackle waste, the retailer said.
The initiative will mean that all Co-op’s own-brand food packaging will be recyclable, either via local authority kerbside collections or through the in-store collection points.
Recycling units for “soft” plastics which are unlikely to be collected by UK councils, such as crisp packets, carrier bags, bread bags, ready meal and yogurt lids, biscuit wrappers and pet-food pouches, are being launched in 1,500 Co-op stores across the UK this month.
The initative, which the Co-op claims is Europe’s most extensive in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and product wrapping, will be rolled out to 2,300 of its 2,600 food stores by November.
The retailer estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the bins are fully in place.
It follows a trial last year in 50 stores, which found that 86% of shoppers were likely to use the service, which also accepts packaging for food products purchased from other retailers.
The Co-op said the collected packaging would be turned into plastic granules by Jayplas, in the UK, for use in making products ranging from bin liners and buckets to material for the construction industry.
Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food chief executive, said: “As we face into an environmental crisis, we know from our feedback that there is a universal appetite for change, which is why we are making it easier for thousands of households to recycle all of their plastic food packaging.
“This will not only prevent unnecessary waste but also reduce plastic pollution.
“By offering a simple and convenient solution to an everyday issue, we believe we can help communities to make small changes, that together will add up to a big difference for our environment.”
Helen Bird, strategic technical manager from waste reduction body Wrap, said unnecessary plastic needed to be reduced, but where it was necessary there was an urgent need to design it for recycling and ensure systems to do so were in place.
“It’s great to see the rollout of collections across Co-op’s stores significantly contributing to the goal of The UK Plastics Pact for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2025,” she said.
“Not only is the Co-op ensuring that the service is widely promoted, it is processing the material within the UK, demonstrating how we can build back better for the economy and environment.”