Co-op is to begin removing all plastic bags for life from its stores from today.
All 2,600 shops, including those in Kent, will begin phasing out the bags after the producer warned that the low-cost re-usable bag was fast becoming the new single-use carrier.
The retailer will instead roll out 10p compostable carriers to all of its convenience stores so that customers can buy a cheap environmentally-friendly bag which does have a sustainable second use including in home compost bins.
The cost for single-use plastic shopping bags in England will double to 10p in May.
Co-op's announcement to rid its stores of bags for life comes as part of a new report it has published called 'Bag to Rights' which sets out recommendations for the government to further fight plastic waste, including a plea for a policy which would require major retailers to report on all re-usable bag sales, as well as single use bags, in order to track the true impact of the carrier bag levy.
The report's other suggestions include requiring all single-use carrier bags to be compostable and introducing a minimum 50p price for re-usable bags to encourage customers to repeatedly re-use them instead of treating them as single-use.
Whilst the carrier bag charge is said to have reduced the sale of conventional single use carriers significantly, seeing a 95% reduction since its introduction in 2015 data from Greenpeace has indicated that, in 2019, supermarkets distributed over 1.5 billion bags for life – weighing a total of 44,913 tonnes – which is a 56% increase from the previous year.
Jo Whitfield, CEO, 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.”