Co-op replace plastic 'bags for life'

Co-op is set to end the sale of plastic "bags for life" from all its 2,600 stores, to be replaced by tear-resistant paper bags.

The measures will come fully into effect by the end of the summer.

The move is part of a commitment by Co-op to remove 29.5 million bags for life - 870 tonnes of plastic - from sale each year.

“Bags for life” require more plastic to produce than the more common single-use bags.

The news comes amid wider efforts from the UK supermarket industry to reduce the use of plastic in their offerings; Tesco removed 20 million pieces of plastic from its 2020 Christmas range, while Morrison’s announced a similar ban on "bags for life" earlier this month.

Single-use plastic bags doubled in price earlier this month, to 10p each, and the rules now apply to convenience stores, who were previously exempt.

UK retailers created more than 900,000 tons of plastic waste in 2018, according to a report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace.

"Increased use of bags for life has led to a sharp rise in plastic use,” said Jo Whitfield, chief executive at Co-op Food. "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 a major hike in the amount of plastic being produced."

“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.”

She added: “This policy would enable a fuller understanding of the impact of the levy and its true effect on shopping behaviours when customers are making decisions at the tills.”

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