Bags not for life: Co-op scraps reusable plastic carriers

Co-op store Reepham, Norfolk

Staff at the Co-op in Reepham with their canvas bags which they sold to help plant new trees locally. - Credit: Archant

The Co-op, with stores across Norfolk, is to remove plastic 'bags for life' from sale in all of its 2,600 stores.

The bags will be phased out from April 30 with all remaining stock expected to be sold by the end of this summer.

Instead the retailer is replacing single-use bags with 10p compostable carriers in all stores.

The fee for single-use plastic shopping bags will double to 10p in May in the bid to reduce pollution by plastic in the environment.

The Co-op is also calling for all single-use carrier bags to be certified compostable and to introduce a minimum 50p price for reusable bags.

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In Aylsham, its Co-op in Market Place offers shoppers the green, recyclable carrier bags. This was because Aylsham was the first town in the county to go plastic bag-free in May 2008.

The ban on plastic carriers was brought in as part of the town's Cittaslow status, which works to make the town a greener, happier place to live.

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And in Reepham, when the Co-op opened a new store last year, it produced 500 canvas bags supporting the local retail community. Proceeds from the sales of each bag is going towards replanting trees in the town.

Co-op compostable carrier bag Norfolk

One of the Co-op's compostable carrier bags which can be reused. - Credit: Co-op

Data from Greenpeace suggests that supermarkets distributed more than 1.5bn 'bags for life' in 2019, weighing a total of 44,913 tonnes - a 56pc increase on the previous year.

'Bags for life' use more plastic than conventional single-use carriers. The Co-op said its new initiative would remove 29.5m 'bags for life', weighing around 870 tonnes of plastic, from sale each year.

Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, said: "With over 1.5bn bags sold each year by retailers, this remains a massive issue for our industry.

"To help tackle plastic pollution and the use of unnecessary plastic, we will be ceasing the sale of 'bags for life' when current stocks are exhausted."

Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at waste and resources body Wrap, said: "The most important thing to reduce this impact is reuse. Just as we all now carry a mask about ourselves, we should be doing the same with shopping bags.

"For Co-op shoppers this means that they are able to reuse carrier bags and if they have a food waste collection then they can use it as a caddy liner."

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