Co-op to roll out soft plastic collections nationwide

The Co-op supermarket chain is to launch “Europe’s most extensive” in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and product wrapping this month. 

Recycling units for ‘soft’ plastics will launch in 1,500 Co-op stores this month and 2,300 stores by November, the supermarket chain announced last week (9 July). The group has around 2,600 stores across the UK.

The Co-op has around 2,600 stores across the UK

The initiative aims to establish a disposal route for materials unlikely to be collected by UK councils. This includes crisp packets, bread bags, single-use carrier bags and bags-for-life, lids from ready meals and yogurt pots, biscuit wrappers and pet-food pouches.

The materials will be sent to Jayplas for recycling, with the Co-op confirming that the material will be recycled in the UK.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op food CEO, 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.”

The in-store units will also accept packaging from food products purchased from other retailers. The Co-op estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the bins are fully in place.

Recycling

The national roll-out of the scheme follows a film collection trial across 50 branches, which took place last year (see letsrecycle.com story). The Co-op found that 86% of shoppers were likely to use the service.

“This will not only prevent unnecessary waste but also reduce plastic pollution”

Jo Whitfield

In a statement published on 9 July, the Co-op moved to reassure customers that the plastics collected would be recycled in the UK.

Plastic recycler Jayplas will turn the recyclable material into post-consumer plastic granules, which are then made into secondary products. This includes bin liners, rigid products such as buckets, and material for the construction industry.

Flexible plastics

On 13 May, resources charity WRAP called on more supermarkets to collect all types of plastic bags and wrapping for sorting and recycling (see letsrecycle.com story). WRAP estimates that just 6% of plastic bags and wrapping from UK households are recycled each year, while by weight they make up around a fifth of all plastic packaging.

WRAP says just 6% of plastics bags and wrapping are currently recycled

In May, supermarket chain Aldi began a trial roll-out of soft plastic collection points in select stores in the North of England and East Midlands (see letsrecycle.com story).

Sainsbury’s began trialling collections in the northeast in February before expanding its scheme to 520 stores nationwide in June (see letsrecycle.com story).

Tesco had already announced in March that 171 of its stores across the southwest of England and Wales would collect all types of plastic bags and wrapping.

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