Supermarket retailer The Co-op is set to launch lightweight compostable carrier bags across its stores in the UK in order to put an end to single-use plastic.

The new compostable bags, which can be re-used as food waste caddy liners, will be introduced in around 1,400 Co-op food stores before a nationwide rollout.

The 5p bags will be initially launched in towns, cities and villages where compostable carriers are accepted in food waste collections.

The proposed move will result in the elimination of around 60 million plastic carrier bags as part of a wider strategy to tackle plastic pollution, food waste, healthy eating, and saving energy.

Under the new strategy, the retailer aims to ban single-use own-brand plastic products and reduce its overall use of plastic packaging by 2023.

Within the next five years, Co-op aims to make all its own-brand packaging easily recyclable.

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“They are a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags.”

Other sustainable measures aimed at tackling plastic include ensuring at least 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021, and eliminating all own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays.

Co-op Retail chief executive Jo Whitfield 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.”

The retailer noted that so far it has replaced 1255t of hard-to-recycle plastic with alternatives and the switch to compostable carrier bags is set to remove an additional 339t of plastic.