The Co-op is to end single-use plastic in a move which will replace millions of carrier bags with an environmentally friendly alternative.
The retail giant said it will reduce its use of plastic packaging within five years and stop using hard-to-recycle materials such as black plastic.
Lightweight compostable carrier bags, which can be reused as food waste caddy liners, will be rolled out to almost 1,400 Co-op food stores.
The new ethical strategy will see all of the Co-op’s own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023, while own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020.
Jo Whitfield, the Co-op’s retail chief executive, 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.
“Our ban on single-use plastic is central to our new ethical blueprint. The Co-op was founded on righting wrongs, and we first campaigned to stop food fraud.
“Now we face huge global challenges and have created a recipe for sustainability to source responsibly, treat people with fairness and produce products which have minimal impact on the planet.”