The company which will use as much of the material as possible to produce waste disposal bin liners for use in Co-op stores.
The project is a trial and comes under the umbrella of the Plastics Pact which is co-ordinated by WRAP. If the trial prove successful, a national rollout could happen in 2021.
The Co-op said that “In-store collection points will accept all types of clean, ‘scrunchy’ plastic film – from any brand or retailer – including plastic carrier bags, lids from ready meals and yoghurt pots, wine box inners, chocolate, cake and biscuit wrappers, fruit and vegetable flow wrap and toilet roll wrappers.”
Co-op Food’s chief executive, Jo Whitfield said: “We want to make it easy for households to recycle all of their plastic food packaging, to prevent unnecessary waste and reduce pollution. Flimsy plastic film has long been a problem and people are rightly confused as to whether it can be recycled or if it should go straight in the bin.
“We’re pleased to be trialling a proposal that we hope offers a simple solution to an everyday issue. Learnings will help us to prompt a positive change in consumer behaviour over the coming months, ahead of our national rollout next year.”
Commenting on Co-op’s announcement, WRAP’s director Peter Maddox said: “Plastic bags and wrapping make up a quarter of all plastic packaging bought today by weight but only 4% is recycled. These plastics are light-weight yet bulky, and with few local authorities collecting them, it is frustrating for people at home to fill their bins with unrecycled packaging.
Co-op pointed out that it produces more than 750 million pieces of plastic film annually.
The Co-op scheme, which is primarily targeting plastic film, comes in the wake of concerns that plastic film, such as carrier bags and bread bags, are not easy to recycle for consumers and that WRAP has not succeeded in getting the material recycled (see letsrecycle.com story).
WRAP identified barriers to plastics film recycling as long ago as 2004 (see letsrecycle.com story) and has made little progress since then, although under the Plastics Pact, its efforts to boost plastic recycling have grown.
Few authorities collect the plastic, which can cause problems in materials recycling facilities, although Exeter has recently struck a deal with Jayplas to recycle the material.
As a consequence of the pandemic, some retailers temporarily removed film (carrier bag) recycling banks, while others such as Morrisons halted plastic bag collections from online deliveries, although these have now been reinstated.
Funding arrangements for the Co-op/Jayplas scheme have not been divulged but the the material is likely to have a low or negative value although it is thought to be eligible for PRNs,. However, these have tumbled in value over the summer, which has not helped the sector.
Value is likely to be influenced by the quality of material – a WRAP study in 2010 found that the plastics recovered in a similar trial by Sainsbury’s in London were of a good standard and relatively clean (WRAP report).
However, margins in the sense of achieving a good price for finished product are also said to have reduced dramatically and the introduction of the plastics packaging tax cannot come soon enough for plastics recyclers as a whole. A Treasury consultation closed on this in August. The tax is due to come into force in April 2022.