Co-op lobbies for universal local food waste collection systems

The Co-op has called for the UK Government and local authorities to accelerate the introduction of a universal food waste collection process, claiming that the move could stop more than 350,000 tonnes of food waste being sent to landfill in England alone.

Co-op lobbies for universal local food waste collection systems

the Co-op notes that 156 English councils (48%) do not have kerbside food waste collections

The Co-op has publicly lobbied for the rollout of food waste collections from homes to be sped up. The retailer will also write to all local authorities that do not currently offer kerbside food waste collections, calling on them to agree to a universal standard.

The retailer believes that the collection services would help combat the estimated 1,000 tonnes of food waste that is landfilled each day, noting that composting or using it to create energy would help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“How we do business really matters. The world is experiencing a climate crisis and we need to work together to avoid it. Accelerating action is the only way to mitigate and reduce impacts on our natural world, and to ensure stable food supply chains in the future,” the Co-op’s chief commercial officer Michael Fletcher said.

Under the Resources and Waste Strategy, ministers have issued a call for evidence on whether to provide weekly collections of food waste for every household. Currently, only 35% of households in England are obliged to put food waste in their own caddy. The scheme would reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) from landfill, but some experts believe it could lead to less frequent collections of general household waste.

Proposals being developed by the Government could see weekly food waste collections in place by 2023.

Compostable bags

Citing evidence from WRAP, the Co-op notes that 156 English councils (48%) do not have kerbside food waste collections and that of the 169 local authorities that do collect food waste, 12% do not accept compostable bags.

Late last year, the Co-op started to phase out single-use plastic bags from more than 1,000 of its UK stores, replacing them with compostable alternatives.

The switch, which the supermarket chain claims will eliminate around 60 million single-use bags from its annual plastic footprint, comes after trials across 22 Co-op stores in Greater Manchester proved successful earlier this year. The phase-out will see the supermarket’s single-use 5p carrier bags replaced with plant-based alternatives, which customers will also be charged 5p for.

The Co-op has committed to making the compostable bags widely available if the Government agrees to accept the items in food waste collections. The retailer claims that this would save more than five million plastic bags from ending up in landfill each month.

The retailer also suggests that a large number of the 1.75 billion single-use plastic bags in circulation could be replaced with compostable variants.


“We are committed to helping our members and customers to make environmentally friendly choices and reducing the environmental impact of products is and always has been at the core of Co-op. That’s why we are writing to local authorities to encourage universal kerbside food waste collections and acceptance of compostable bags, sooner than 2023,” Fletcher added.

Research from online savings site VoucherCodes has also found that food waste equates to £9.7bn across the country each year.

The phase-out forms part of the Co-op’s commitment to making all of its own-brand packaging “easy to recycle” by 2023, as laid out in its ‘the future of food: a recipe for sustainability’ strategy.

The pledge notably includes goals of removing all hard-to-recycle black plastic from own-brand lines by 2020 and ensuring plastic bottles, pots, trays and punnets consist of 50% recycled content by 2021.

Since the launch of the strategy, the Co-op has worked to make three-quarters of the packaging items it produces “widely recyclable”, with these items accounting for 95% of the chain’s total plastic waste output by weight.

The retailer has also increased the amount of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in its own-brand water bottles to 50% – a move Ferguson estimates will eliminate the use of 350 tonnes of virgin plastic each year.

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Matt Mace

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