The announcement comes as it publishes a new report ‘Bag to Rights’ which sets out new policy recommendations for Government.
As part of this move, and ahead of the new carrier bag levy increase coming in to place, the convenience retailer will also roll out compostable carriers to all stores to ensure that customers are able to purchase a low-cost, low impact alternative bag with a sustainable second use.
The Co-op is calling for a policy to require major retailers to report on all reusable bags, as well as single-use bags, to provide greater transparency to track the true impact of carrier bag levy.
Co-op’s other recommendations include requiring all single-use carrier bags to be certified compostable and to introduce a minimum 50p price for reusable bags to create a greater perceived value to encourage customers to reuse them instead of treating them as single-use.
The convenience retailer is now looking to work with more food retailers to adopt a balanced and joined-up approach to their carrier bag offer.
Co-op’s approach involves removing bags for life from sale, rolling out a compostable bags for 10p and setting the price of its lowest cost reusable bag at 50p. This approach is aimed at embedding real reuse of bags in the retail setting.
Jo Whitfield, chief executive, Co-op Food, said: “Increased use of Bags for Life has 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.
“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. We’re also ensuring all of our members and customers have access to a low price point option that’s more environmentally friendly, alongside more durable bags at a higher price point.
“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.”
Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager WRAP, said: “All bags, regardless of the material they are made from, impact on the environment. 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.
“Supermarkets have a responsibility to incentivise this and we would like to see transparent reporting on all types of shopping bags – whether they are made of traditional plastic, compostable plastic or paper. There will be times when we forget to bring a bag and in these instances we can still reuse those bags, and at the end of their life we recycle them at supermarket collection points. For Co-op’s 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.”