Co-op to launch in-store soft plastic recycling scheme across 1,500 stores

Co-op yesterday (12 July) announced the launch of its new in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and product wrapping.

The rollout of the scheme is set to see the supermarket become the first in the UK to have fully recyclable food packaging by the end of July, and help tackle inconsistencies in kerbside collections.

A Co-op soft plastics recycling pointRecycling units for ‘soft’ plastics will launch in 1,500 Co-op stores this month (July), and 2,300 stores by November, and will also accept packaging for food products purchased in other retailers.

‘Soft’ plastics are lightweight plastics that are not typically recycled at home, such as crisp packets, single-use carrier bags and bags-for-life, and biscuit wrappers.

The initiative will ensure that all Co-op branded food packaging will be easily recyclable, by establishing an accessible disposal route for these materials.

The retailer estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the units are fully installed.

The national roll-out of the scheme follows a successful 50 store film collection trial last year, which found that 86 per cent of shoppers were likely to use the service.

Similar schemes have been rolled out across major UK supermarkets this year, with Tesco first announcing its in-store soft plastic recycling program in March.

Following a successful trial in the North East of England, Sainsbury’s announced the roll-out of its own scheme in May.

Late last year, ASDA partnered with Unilever to launch its refill partnership, which saw its Middleton store in Leeds reopened as a ‘sustainability store’, providing consumers with refill options across seven of Unilever’s brands.

Co-op has additionally outlined the destinations for plastic collected in the scheme, partnering with plastic recycler Jayplas to turn the material into post-consumer plastic granules.

These can be made into secondary products, including bin liners, rigid products such as buckets, and material for the construction industry, diverting material from landfill, incineration, or being shipped overseas.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO, said: “As we face 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.”

Helen Bird, Strategic Technical Manager at WRAP, said: “There’s no doubt that unnecessary plastic needs to be reduced; including bags and wrapping which is a fifth of all consumer plastic packaging.

“However, where it is necessary it is urgent to design it for recycling and ensure recycling systems are in place.

“It’s great to see the roll out of collections across Co-op’s stores significantly contributing to the goal of The UK Plastics Pact for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2025.

“Not only is the Co-op ensuring that the service is widely promoted, it is processing the material within the UK, demonstrating how we can build back better for the economy and environment.”

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