Co-op to scrap plastic 'bags for life'

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Plastic Co-op bagImage source, PA Media

The Co-op has become the latest supermarket chain to say it will stop selling plastic "bags for life".

The retailer, which has 2,600 shops, said many people only used the 10p bags once before throwing them away.

The Co-op said its move would take 29.5 million bags for life, or about 870 tonnes of plastic, out of circulation every year.

Earlier this month, Morrisons said it would remove all plastic carrier bags from its stores over the next year.

The Co-op said it would replace the plastic bags with compostable carrier bags selling for 10p "when current stocks are exhausted".

Co-op Food chief executive Jo Whitfield said the increased use of bags for life had led to a sharp rise in plastic use.

"With over 1.5 billion bags sold each year by retailers, this remains a massive issue for our industry as many shoppers are regularly buying so called 'Bags for Life' to use just once and it's leading to major hike in the amount of plastic being produced."

Image source, Co-op
Image caption,
The Co-op is to introduce compostable carrier bags

The Co-op has also published a new report called "Bag to Rights" in which it details some recommendations it is making to government on plastic bag use.

The plastic bag levy, which is already 10p in Scotland, is set to double to 10p in England next month. However, the Co-op wants to see the minimum price for reusable bags being set at 50p, to encourage customers to use them more than once.

It also wants all single-use carrier bags to be compostable.

In addition, Ms Whitfield said: "We believe that it should be mandatory for all retailers to report on the sales of all of their reusable bags, not just single-use bags.

"Right now, Co-op is the only major retailer to report on all of the bags it sells. This policy would enable a fuller understanding on the impact of the levy and its true effect on shopping behaviours when customers are making decisions at the tills."

Image source, Morrisons
Image caption,
Earlier this month, Morrisons said it would switch to using paper bags

Earlier this month Morrisons said it would switch from offering plastic "bags for life" to a paper alternative.

In recent years, all supermarkets have tried to cut plastics use.

Waitrose is currently trialling the removal of its 10p bags for life from several of its stores.

"Our trial is ongoing but we're already seeing a drop in uptake in our bags, as intended, suggesting more of our customers at our eight trial stores are reusing them. This is hugely positive and we're optimistic about a wider roll out in the near future," said a spokesman.

Sainsbury's has said its bags for life cost 20p to encourage customers to re-use them and are made from 100% recycled plastic.

Asda has defended its continued use of plastic bags for life previously, saying they were a "sustainable alternative to single-use carrier bags... particularly given the concerns around CO2 emissions related to the paper-bag production process".