UK retailer Co-op has rolled out fully compostable carrier bags to more than 1,000 food stores across the country following a trial in 22 of its Manchester stores earlier this year.

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Image: Shoppers can bag compostable carriers at Co-op as retailer ditches single-use plastic. Photo: courtesy of Co-operative Group Limited.

The compostable carrier bags, which are priced at 5p, are initially available in Co-op food stores in communities where the local authority in the household food waste collections accepts them.

The bags can also be used as food waste caddy liners and are approved for home composting. The compostable carrier bags are designed to help local authorities with food waste recycling, support their community and resident engagement and, reduce plastic contamination in a targeted way.

Co-op’s initiative to ditch single-use plastics will see the company increase recyclable packaging and materials.

The company’s latest move, which is estimated to replace nearly 60 million single-use plastic bags UK-wide, is part of Co-op’s new ethical strategy, dubbed the Future of Food – a recipe for sustainability.

The phase-out forms part of the retailer’s pledge to make all of its own-brand packaging easy to recycle by 2023.

All own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be removed by 2020.

Co-op environment manager Iain Ferguson said reducing environmental impacts is, and always has been, at the core of the company’s efforts.

Ferguson said: “We face huge global challenges and our ethical strategy sets out a recipe for sustainability to source responsibly, treat people with fairness and produce products which have minimal impact on our planet.

“However, we can’t do it alone and co-operation is key to our plan – we welcome measures designed to make recycling simpler and more accessible for consumers, which bring together supply and waste value chains to achieve a more circular economy.”

Co-op has promised to use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021.

Almost three out of four products that the retailer makes are now widely recyclable, which accounts for 95% of its products when measured by weight.

The Co-op, which already sources 100% renewable energy for its stores, said it will tackle greenhouse emissions via its logistics operations. In addition, the company noted that it will reduce energy, water and waste in its supply chain.