Ocado carrier bag

Ocado will offer customers hard cash for every plastic bag they give to the online retailer for recycling, regardless of branding, starting on Monday.

Customers can return a maximum of 99 bags from any retailer in one go earning them potentially £4.95 a time at 5p a bag.

The Bag Recycle Bonus scheme comes into effect on the same day as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ implements new rules requiring all large retailers to charge customers 5p for every “single-use” plastic carrier bag.

Ocado’s new scheme is an extension of its “closed-loop recycling system” whereby it has encouraged customers to return bags, which it recycles back into new Ocado bags.

The only difference with the new scheme is that customers will be paid. Ocado says it is the only supermarket to operate such a system and the entire process takes place within the UK, which minimises carbon emissions from transportation.

“With our natural advantage in this area, our business model is built around efficiency and low waste,” said Ocado’s head of corporate responsibility Suzanne Westlake.

“We’ve been operating a closed loop recycling scheme for many years now and our drivers have always taken back plastic bags – both our own and others – during a delivery, which we then make into new bags.”

She said the new Bag Recycle Bonus Scheme would help the business meet the aims of the new carrier bag charging legislation in England, reducing littering and damage to marine wildlife.

The 5p charge brings England into line with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Charges were introduced in Wales in October 2011, in April 2013 in Northern Ireland and in October last year in Scotland. Retailers have committed to give money raised from plastic bags to good causes.