Packaging and recycling

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Packaging has a place, it protects our food and keeps it fresher and safe for longer. We want to keep plastics and packaging in the economy and out of the oceans by using less and making our products easy to recycle. Find out what we’re doing to make a difference.

How we've made a difference?

Milk bottle tops

Our milk bottle tops are a shade lighter, making it easier for recycle machines to sort them.

Meat packaging

Our cooked meat packaging is made with single material, making it easier to recycle and saving 163 tonnes of plastic from landfill.

Pizza trays

In 2017, we introduced new, corrugated cardboard pizza discs preventing 200 tonnes of polystyrene boards going to landfill per year.

Tomato trays

670k packets of cherry and baby plum tomatoes have been moved into cardboard saving 68 tonnes of plastic per year.

Mushroom pots

Our mushrooms don’t come in black packaging anymore so they can be easily recycled.

Tissue boxes

Our tissue boxes are fully made from FSC paper, without plastic so they can be recycled.

Be easy on the environment with these easy tips

  1. Remember to take reusable bags when you go shopping
  2. Rinse your packaging, this removes any residue to make sure it can be recycled
  3. Use your green Co-op carrier bag for food waste

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Our story so far

We've always been at the forefront of removing hidden plastic and unnecessary packaging and are proud to have one of the smallest plastic footprints of any major food retailer.

In 2017 we stated that we want to make all our packaging easy to recycle. We’ve moved from 46% of our products being easy to recycle to 78%. Almost three-quarters of our own brand products are being widely recycled, 94% of the packaging for all these products when measured by weight.

Our compostable bags can be used in kerbside food waste collections. Co-op is calling upon more local authorities in England to encourage universal kerbside food waste collections sooner than 2023 so that twice as much of the food wasted in the UK can be recycled into energy.

Over the past two years, we’ve removed 331 tonnes of plastic from our fresh produce and horticulture lines through the removal of single use plastic trays, light weighting of films and switching to reusable flower buckets. See the breakdown below:

  • 100 tonnes of plastic per year was saved by implementing a system of reusable flower buckets in stores
  • 4 million plastic trays were removed from asparagus and tender stem broccoli saving 42 tonnes of plastic per year
  • 3.5 million pots of wet salads (such as coleslaw) were light weighted, resulting in a saving of 16 tonnes per year
  • 3.9 million vegetable steam pots were also light weighted, saving 13.8 tonnes per year
  • 1 million plastic trays were removed from baby sweetcorn and courgette packets, saving 10.4 tonnes per year
  • 6.5 million stir fry and bean sprout packets were light weighted, saving 2.7 tonnes of plastic per year. 529,000 plastic wrappers were removed from aubergines, saving 1.1 tonnes per year
  • 10 million plastic fruit labels were replaced with compostable alternatives resulting in a saving of 1 tonne per year

Last November, we announced the removal of plastic, as well as glitter, from our entire Christmas celebration range, cutting out 1.1 million pieces of plastic – a total of 8 tonnes.

We have also reduced our reliance on virgin or ‘new’ plastic and now use almost 37% recycled content across our own-brand packaging.

We have done many other plastic reduction projects outside of produce totalling 1438 tonnes.

We know there’s more we can do, see our works in progress

  • Rolling out compostable carrier bags in more areas where household food waste can be recycled
  • 15% plastic reduction by the end of 2022
  • Support the roll out of the UK’s largest ever scheme to recycle plastic film which local councils do not presently collect for recycling
  • Ensuring the packaging we use extends shelf life and limits food waste
  • Collaborating with 25 project groups in non-governmental organisations, universities, charities, packaging and product suppliers, and industry groups to find better ways to package food, improve labelling and maximised the amount of recyclable packaging