The Co-operative Group has u-turned on its decision to sell unwrapped cucumbers after research revealed it was more environmentally friendly to sell them shrink-wrapped in plastic.

The Co-op Group switched from wrapped to ‘naked’ cucumbers in 2007 following a 12-week trial. The retailer said at the time the move would save about eight tonnes of plastic a year.

But it has now reintroduced plastic wrapping to cut food waste and ensure cucumbers look fresh, claiming the move will save 56 tonnes of food waste a year and reduce carbon emissions by 22 tonnes a year.

As the “UK’s most sustainable retailer”, finding new ways to reduce food waste levels was of the utmost importance, a spokeswoman said. “We are constantly looking at the best ways to provide value for our customers in a responsible way.”

The move has prompted a debate among Co-op Group employees on Facebook. “We are going back on one of our ‘changes for the good’,” said one member of staff. However, he added that cucumbers could now be stacked in front of the fixture during warmer weather, whereas ‘naked’ cucumbers could not.