Co-op goes green on bags

The Co-operative has launched the UK's first fully-accredited home-compostable carrier bag in a six-week trial in Northampton, with the aim of encouraging shoppers to reduce the use of free throwaway plastic bags.

If the scheme proves successful, the retailer is planning to roll it out to other areas, subject to local demand.

The Co-operative, which is owned and democratically run by its members, has pledged to support local community-led initiatives on plastic bags and is currently backing projects in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire.

All 11 Co-operative stores in the Northampton area will be taking part in the trial, which began this week. Co-operative staff are being briefed so they can answer questions from interested customers and encourage them to use the home-compostable bags or reusable shopping bags. Window posters and shelf labels will also highlight the trial. Information leaflets on home composting will also be available.

The initiative follows the launch of The Co-operative's Food Ethical Policy earlier this month. Over 100,000 members and customers said action to safeguard the environment was one of their top priorities.

As well as the home-compostable bag, shoppers will also be able to choose from a Fairtrade Cotton bag or a plastic Bag for Life, which The Co-operative replaces for free and then recycles. Recycling bins for the throwaway plastic bags are also being installed in the stores.

Debbie Robinson, director of food retail marketing at The Co-operative Group, said: "The ultimate aim of this trial is to see if we can help reduce the use of plastic bags. In order to do that we need to show shoppers that there are alternatives to plastic bags and that, by using them, we can help reduce the impact on the environment. It's about winning over the hearts and minds of customers."