The Co-op Group has announced an end to plastic carrier bags as part of a strategy to ban all single-use own-brand plastic packaging within five years.

Lightweight compostable 5p carrier bags, which can be also be re-used as food waste caddy liners, will be rolled out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores across England, Scotland and Wales over the next few years, in areas where the bags are accepted in food waste collections.

The move is part of the Co-op’s new ethical strategy to be launched later on 27 September, which will tackle plastic pollution as well as food waste, healthy eating, saving energy and trading fairly.

Under the strategy all own brand products will come in recyclable packaging by 2023, while all own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020.

The Co-op said its reductions in plastic use, combined with its new pledge on carrier bags, was the equivalent to 125 million plastic water bottles being taken out of production.

Co-op Group chief executive Jo Whitfield said: “The price of food wrapped in plastic has become too much to swallow and, from today, the Co-op will phase out any packaging which cannot be reused.

 “The first step to remove single-use plastic, will be to launch compostable carrier bags in our stores. They are a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags.”

 “We can’t do it alone, which is why partnerships are key to our plan,” she added.