Co-op ditches plastic ‘bags for life’ and replaces with 10p compostable bag
The Co-op is to remove plastic “bags for life” from sale in all of its 2,600 stores and replace them with 10p compostable carriers.
The supermarket warns that the low-cost, reusable bag has become the new single-use carrier.
The bags will be phased out from April 30 with all remaining stock expected to be sold by the end of this summer.
The retailer is replacing single-use bags with compostable versions to ensure that customers are able to buy a low-cost, low-impact alternative bag with a sustainable second use.
The minimum fee for single-use plastic shopping bags at all supermarkets in England will double to 10p in May.
The Co-op has welcomed the increase, but is now calling for a policy to require major retailers to report on all reusable bags, as well as single-use bags, to track the true impact of carrier bag levy.
Co-op’s other recommendations include requiring all single-use carrier bags to be certified compostable and to introduce a minimum 50p price for reusable bags to encourage customers to reuse them instead of treating them as single-use.
Greenpeace data suggests supermarkets distributed more than 1.5 billion bags for life in 2019, weighing a total of 44,913 tonnes – a 56% increase on the previous year.
Bags for life use more plastic in their production than conventional single-use carriers, which has in turn increased the amount of plastic in circulation.
The Co-op said its new initiative would remove 29.5 million bags for life, weighing around 870 tonnes of plastic, from sale each year.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: “Increased use of bags for life has led to a sharp rise in plastic use.
“With over 1.5 billion bags sold each year by retailers, this remains a massive issue for our industry as many shoppers are regularly buying so-called bags for life to use just once and it’s leading to a major hike in the amount of plastic being produced.
“To help tackle plastic pollution and the use of unnecessary plastic, we will be ceasing the sale of bags for life when current stocks are exhausted.
“We’re also ensuring all of our members and customers have access to a low price point option that’s more environmentally friendly, alongside more durable bags at a higher price point.”
Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at waste and resources body Wrap, said: “All bags, regardless of the material they are made from, impact on the environment.
“The most important thing to reduce this impact is reuse. Just as we all now carry a mask about ourselves, we should be doing the same with shopping bags.
“Supermarkets have a responsibility to incentivise this and we would like to see transparent reporting on all types of shopping bags – whether they are made of traditional plastic, compostable plastic or paper.
“There will be times when we forget to bring a bag and in these instances we can still reuse those bags, and at the end of their life we recycle them at supermarket collection points.
“For Co-op’s shoppers this means that they are able to reuse carrier bags and if they have a food waste collection then they can use it as a caddy liner.”
Earlier this month, Morrisons became the first UK supermarket to completely remove plastic carrier bags from stores.
It replaced the bags with a 30p paper bag it says can hold up to 16kg of shopping and is recyclable and water resistant.