Major supermarket seeks changes in plastic bag legislation
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Major supermarket seeks changes in plastic bag legislation

The big news in the plastic bag industry this week stems from a call by The Co-op to change the legislation surrounding the proposed 5p plastic bag charge in England when it comes to biodegradable bags. Why? Because the supermarket chain believes that biodegradable plastic bags have a clearly defined secondary use as liners for kitchen bins and food waste containers, and they’re already making plans to market their plastic bags with this in mind.

Essentially, the Co-op is suggesting that biodegradable plastic bags should be reused for the disposal of food waste once shoppers have carried their products home in them. The chain is launching this initiative in areas where the local authority have put regular food waste collections in place and claims the bags make ideal liners for food waste caddies that consumers have in their kitchens.

However, the supermarket isn’t suggesting that the 5p charge for these biodegradable plastic bags is scrapped, because they’re already selling these bags instore, to shoppers, for cash – and right now, they’re the only major UK supermarket to do this. Instead, they want the legislation to recognise that biodegradable and compostable plastic bags can be reused effectively in this way, while reassuring both the industry and their customers that they’re doing everything they can to minimise contamination from traditional plastic bags into this reuse stream.

And that’s something they’re really staying on top of. In addition to clearly marketing these biodegradable bags as food waste containers, and carefully labelling and printing them as such, they also run an effective carrier bag recycling programme at the front of most of their stores. This programme is detecting very little cross contamination between plastic bag types, which means they must be doing something right.

That’s definitely true in the eyes of the plastic carrier bag industry, as it has long been seeking a champion of biodegradable plastic bags, and someone who could potentially challenge the law surrounding the 5p levy. The Co-op could be that someone.

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