Co-op has announced an end to single-use plastic, seeing around 60 million plastic carrier bags removed in a phased rollout and replaced with an ‘environmentally-friendly’ alternative.

The move is part of a new ethical strategy to be launched by the retailer, which will tackle plastic pollution as well as help combat food waste, increase healthy eating, save energy and encourage trading fairly.

The company’s blue-print sets out how Co-op will remove single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce its overall use of plastic packaging within five years.

As part of the commitment, lightweight compostable carrier bags, which can be used to carry shopping home and then be re-used as food waste caddy liners, will be rolled out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores.

Co-op’s pledge on plastic will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023.

It has promised to use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021.

All own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020.

Jo Whitfield, retail chief executive, Co-op, said: “The price of food wrapped in plastic has become too much to swallow and, from today, the Co-op will phase out any packaging which cannot be reused.

“The first step to remove single-use plastic, will be to launch compostable carrier bags in our stores. They are a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags.

“We can’t do it alone, which is why partnerships are key to our plan.”

The Future of Food report will be unveiled at a supplier conference on Thursday 27th September 2018 and will set out Co-op’s vision to tackle a range of topics.

The new bags will substitute standard plastic single-use carriers with fully certified compostable carriers of the same size and strength at 5p.

The change will initially be in stores where compostable carriers are accepted in food waste collections.

Co-op will be speaking with the remaining local councils to seek to extend coverage to more stores.