The Co-op Group is this week rolling out new compostable carrier bags in an attempt to cut down on single-use plastics, following a successful trial in 22 stores in Manchester earlier this year.

The not-for-profit compostable bags are priced at 5p, the same price as the conventional single-use plastic bags, and will be introduced in more than 1,000 Co-op food stores across the UK.

The bags can turn into peat-free compost, and are approved for home composting. The move is estimated to remove around 60 million single-use plastic bags.

The move is part of the Co-op’s new ethical strategy called “The Future of Food – a recipe for sustainability” which sets out to tackle plastic pollution, food waste, healthy eating, saving energy and trading fairly.

The first phase of the roll-out is to Co-op stores in communities where the bags are accepted by the Local Authority in food waste collections.

Co-op Group environment manager, Iain Ferguson, said: “Our members and customers expect us to help them to make more ethical choices, and we are dedicated to doing just that. Reducing environmental impacts is, and always has been, at the core of Co-op’s efforts.

“The bags are carefully designed to help local authorities with food waste recycling, supporting their community and resident engagement and, reducing plastic contamination in a targeted way.

“We have committed to removing own brand plastic products, and the launch of compostable carrier bags in our stores provides an environmentally-friendly alternative to single-use plastic shopping bags.

The Co-op Group’s initiative to ditch single-use plastics will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023, all own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, eliminated by 2020, and an increase in recyclable packaging and materials.

Wrap ceo, Marcus Gover, said: “We absolutely need to explore innovative ways of tackling plastic pollution, but there is a balance to ensure initiatives are well thought through and avoid unintended consequences.

“I’m pleased to see this reflected in the Co-op’s approach to its compostable carrier bag initiative by carefully designing an approach that aligns with existing local collection systems. By everyone moving in the right direction, we can transform the plastic system in the UK and keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.”

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