co-op basket

The Co-op this week called on rivals to follow its lead in developing new packaging as it pledged to make 80% of its own label packs easily recyclable by 2020 - but The Grocer has found several of its rivals have already fully embraced this mission.

The Co-op made the call this week as it published research that found two-thirds of all plastic packaging used for consumer products in the UK was being sent to landfill or incineration.

It found only half a million of the 1.5 million tonnes of recyclable plastic waste created every year was being reused. The Co-op said this was down to a lack of consumer knowledge about which packaging could be recycled, along with local authorities lacking recycling facilities.

Less than half (45%) of Co-op own-brand packaging was currently easily recyclable, it admitted. As well as asking other retailers to develop new packaging, it also called on them to work with local authorities to improve recycling.

“It is shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already easy to recycle like plastic bottles. We are concerned that so much still goes to landfill every year,” said Co-op environment manager Iain Ferguson.

“We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource. What is needed is a co-ordinated response to the problem. This should start with retailers and major brands listening to recyclers and developing packaging that is better for recycling.”

He added that the retailer’s long-term ambition was for all packaging to be recycled where it can be.

However, The Grocer has found that Tesco, Waitrose and M&S are already pushing ahead with these commitments.

Tesco said currently more than three-quarters of its own label packaging was easily recyclable.

“We’re committed to designing our packaging with recycling in mind and at least 77% of our packaging is widely recyclable,” said a Tesco spokeswoman. “We’re committed to working with industry experts and supporting local authorities to promote better recycling.”

M&S said its “ultimate aim was to get to a point where 100% of our food packaging is widely recyclable”. At the moment about 70% falls into this category, while Waitrose has set a target of 90% to be easy to recycle by 2020. A spokeswoman said it estimated about 60% was easy to recycle right now.

The Co-op said its measurement differed to rivals as it was worked out at sku level, while rivals based their percentages on total weight of packaging. It said if it measured by weight, around 80% of its packaging would also currently be easily recyclable.