Packaging & Recycling

Because a throwaway culture is rubbish

Packaging has a place. It protects our food and keeps it fresher and safe for longer. But, we want to keep plastics in the economy and out of the oceans, by using less and make it even easier to recycle.

We also know it can be hard to recycle certain products and we listen to your frustrations about recyclability at home and use them to make our packaging smarter.

We want all of our packaging to be easy to recycle and we’re aiming for 80% by 2020. We are currently at 71% which we’re really pleased about. Our next steps include tackling trickier plastics, such as film and ready meal trays, and we’re hard at work. Whilst we’ve made some great progress, there’s more to do and we need to keep innovating.

Some of our hero recycling innovations to look for in store include

  • Our meat product packaging, it’s now made with a single material so can be recycled easily
  • Our milk bottle top colours are a lighter shade, this makes them easier to recycle
  • Our pizza bases are all cardboard, not polystyrene
  • Our own-brand straws are paper not plastic
  • Our Irresistible tomato packaging is cardboard not plastic
  • Our mushroom pots are blue, not black, so they can be recycled easily too
  • We also stock compostable carrier bags in selected stores in England and Scotland. They can be used to carry shopping home and then within food waste caddies and bins.

We’re busy brewing up a fully biodegradable paper tea bag, and we are the first retailer to find a solution to the problem of plastic waste caused by our favourite beverage.

We’ve developed a version of our own-brand 99 tea without polypropylene, which is an industry-wide method used to enable teabags to hold their shape. This move could save nine tonnes of plastic every year from being dumped into household rubbish and compost collections, as it is fully compostable and can be placed in food waste collections.

Tea Bags

We sell around 4.6 million boxes of tea annually (around 367 million teabags) and we joined forces with Typhoo, and Ahlstrom-Munksjö, specialists in sustainable fibre solutions, to develop the new bags which will eliminate the use of the more widely-used plastic seal.

The new bio-degradable bag could be on shelves later this year and we intend to roll it out across our entire own-label standard tea range.

Biodegradable Tea

Co-op are the first supermarket to trial compostable tea bags.

The Tipping Point

Only half a million of the 1.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created every year is being reused as intended. We first raised this issue in 2016, with our Tipping Point report, read it here.

Find out more

Clearly recycled bottles

We’re switching all our Co-op branded water bottles to 50% recycled plastic. This will save 350 tonnes of plastic every year, and we’re the first retailer to do it.

Read more here
  • While being plastic-free seems on the face of things to be the right way to go, it is important to understand that the plastic packaging that we use protects our products, reducing food waste. WRAP (leading environmental charity) has evidence showing that after storing fresh produce in the right place, keeping the plastic wrapper on has the biggest benefit for reducing food waste. In our approach, we need to be conscious of consequences, intended or otherwise, so that we can make the best sustainable decision for our customers and the environment.

  • The plastic packaging that we use protects our fruit and veg, helping to reduce food waste. WRAP has evidence showing that after storing fresh produce in the right place, keeping the plastic wrapper on has the biggest benefit for reducing food waste.

  • Our next area of focus is removing black and dark plastics and looking at alternatives to replace hard to recycle plastic bags, films, laminates, and composite cans, with packaging that can be recycled easily. We will be working closely with our suppliers, packaging experts, academics, government officials and NGOs to get there.

  • Some materials currently don’t have a market for recyclability – which means they aren’t accepted in home collections in many areas of the country. Films and plastic bags are a good examples of this. Hidden plastics can also be tricky. We are also working beyond product packaging to eliminate other single use plastics eg plastic straws and tackle hidden plastic. i.e. within tea bags. We are also looking for opportunities to reduce plastic, embrace new innovations and increase the amount of recycled plastic elsewhere in our operations to provide a market for the material

Packaging & Recycling

We also know it can be hard to recycle certain products and we listen to your frustrations about recyclability at home and use them to make our packaging smarter.

Find out more