Ethical spending tops £40bn as Co-op commits to 100% recyclable packaging

January 8, 2020 Off By Sebastian Reisig

As ethical consumer spending reaches record levels and the focus turns to environmentally-friendly shopping, the Co-op today (30 December) announced a new commitment to only using 100% own-brand recyclable packaging which will lead to the largest-ever UK-wide scheme to recycle plastic film.

The Co-op’s unique Ethical Consumerism Report, which has tracked ethical expenditure year by year over the past two decades, reveals the extent to which UK consumers now shop with their hearts on their sleeves.

The report, which focuses on various sectors of the economy, highlights that back in 1999 the total size of the market was just £11.2bn. Today, on a conservative basis, the figure is £41.1bn.

Total ethical spending in the UK has increased almost four fold in the past 20 years and outgrown all UK household expenditure which has grown by just over two per cent.

The average spend on ethical purchases per household has grown from £202 a year in 1999 to £1,278 per annum in 2018.

On the day ethical spending hit record levels, the Co-op has announced that it has banned black plastic packaging from all of its products and by the summer of 2020 it will have phased out all non-recyclable plastics and replaced them with those that can be reused or easily recycled.

Everything from ready meal trays, crisps packets, to sandwich cartons and film, all packaging used will be easy to recycle whether via kerbside collection or a closed loop in house scheme.

The move will be facilitated by the largest ever UK-wide scheme to recycle plastic film, which local councils do not presently collect for recycling. The Co-op makes over 750 million pieces of plastic film each year and will make it easy to recycle by developing its own national collection programme for the material. After a spring store trial, the scheme will be rolled out nationally across the retailer’s store estate by the summer.

Only half a million of the 2.3 million tonnes of plastic placed on the UK market every year is being recycled, resulting in 1.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging used for consumer goods ending up in landfill. One of the main reasons is down to a lack of knowledge about which packaging can be recycled, along with local authorities lacking the facilities to deal with it.