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Recycling and waste reduction

Recycling and waste reduction 1

As well as carefully monitoring and reducing our own waste, we encourage our communities to follow suit by offering various recycling schemes through our outlets.

Soft plastic recycling bins in 87 food stores

Estimates from WRAP suggest that 760,000 tonnes of plastic film end up in UK waste streams every year, with half originating from households.

These bins mean our communities can dispose of materials such as bread bags or chocolate wrappers in an environmentally friendly way.

The soft plastics we collect in our stores will be recycled in the UK. They are turned into plastic granules which are then made into things including bin liners, rigid products such as buckets, and materials for the construction industry.

100% easily recyclable packaging

100% of packaging of Co-op own brand products are easily recyclable – that’s defined as recycled by at least 75% of local authorities nationally.

We report how many products have easily recyclable packaging, whereas many other organisations base their recycling targets on weight. We believe weight doesn’t show the true picture – for example, glass, which is widely recycled, is heavier than many plastics.

Initiatives have been introduced such as switching polystyrene pizza bases to cardboard and simplifying trays used for meat and fish so that they’re made from just one type of plastic.

We’re also using recycled plastic to make packaging, for example, our own brand water is made of 100% recycled plastic.

Zero waste to landfill

All our waste – whether that’s food, paper, cardboard, plastics, medicines, or equipment such as computers and phones - is either reused, recycled, composted, or sent to energy recovery.

However, we’re not complacent and our main focus is on reducing the volume of waste we produce.

Reduced food waste by 37%

To cut food waste, we sell products that are past their best before date at reduced prices. We’re displaying signs on our shelves to help make these products easy to spot.

The best before date is given by the manufacturer to tell consumers how long a product is at its very best, but some products can be sold and used past this date.

These are ‘ambient’ products – cans, tins, packets – and some fresh products like fruit and veg. Use by dates, on the other hand, state when a product must be consumed by. These are products such as meat, fish and dairy.

Supporting food redistribution

We worked alongside charity FareShare, to set up their redistribution hub in Lincoln. We continue to support the hub, which redirects food that otherwise would go to waste so it can be used to support people in need.

We also trialled donating surplus food to FareShare, however we have very low levels of food surplus and this proved to be unsustainable. We are currently looking for alternative solutions.

Clothing banks at 47 sites

Our Salvation Army clothing banks mean that our communities can easily recycle unwanted garments.

Between April 2021 and March 2022 we’ve recycled 272,000 kilograms of clothing and raised thousands of pounds for both The Salvation Army and our own Community Champions fundraising.

100% compostable carrier bags

We've removed single-use carrier bags from our stores and replaced them with our compostable bags. They're designed to biodegrade faster, which will reduce our impact on the environment.

These carriers also make great liners for kitchen compost caddies, they're broken down alongside the organic material, meaning they can be deposited directly into your outside compost bin.

The proceeds from carrier bag sales will continue to go towards good causes through our Community Champions scheme.

Battery recycling at all food stores

Putting batteries in normal general waste or recycling bins creates a fire risk for bin lorries and recycling centres. Not only is using our recycling bins safer, it’s also better for the environment!

So, store up your used batteries and take them to your local food store next time you’re shopping.

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