British retailer Co-op has unveiled plans to ban single use plastics and replace roughly 60 million plastic bags with environmentally friendly equivalents.
Under the plans, announced Saturday, lightweight and compostable carrier bags will be introduced to nearly 1,400 Co-op Food shops in areas where compostable bags can be used in food waste collections. They will cost shoppers 5 pence (7 cents) each.
All of Co-op's own-brand packaging will "become easy to recycle" by 2023, while all own-brand black and dark plastic packaging will be scrapped by 2020. Co-op has also pledged to use a minimum of 50 percent recycled plastic in bottles, trays, punnets and pots by 2021.
Jo Whitfield, Co-op's retail chief executive, described the compostable bags as a "a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags."
Co-op is owned by its millions of members and employs almost 70,000 people. It is one of the U.K.'s biggest retailers. As well as its food shops, it offers funeral services, insurance and legal services.
It joins a growing list of major retailers looking to reduce their use of plastic. Frozen food specialist Iceland, for example, has committed to eliminating plastic packaging from its own brand products by 2023.
The issue of plastic pollution is a serious one. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste per year, according to the European Commission. Less than 30 percent of this is collected for recycling.