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UK: Co-op commits to ‘clear’ shelves of all coloured milk bottle tops to increase recyclability

Manchester, United Kingdom

Co-op has committed to removing all coloured milk bottle caps from its shelves, the convenience retailer has confirmed, delivering ‘clear’ benefits for the recyclability of the lids.

Shoppers are soon set to see clear caps on all Co-op’s skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk across all its stores in towns, villages and cities across the UK. Clear bottle tops reduce colour contamination in the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) stream, allowing materials to be recycled more easily into food-grade packaging. The move follows successful consumer trials on semi-skimmed milk in more than 400 Co-op stores in August and, with ‘clear’ recyclability gains to be made, green caps will be switched to clear in all of its stores by the end of next month.

Co-op will then eradicate red (skimmed milk caps) and blue (whole milk caps) in early 2023. Once all caps have been switched it could remove more than 150 tonnes of coloured plastic from HDPE streams per annum. Switching all green caps first is set to unlock the majority of the recyclability benefits, with semi-skimmed accounting for more than three-fifths of milk sales.

Adam Williams, Co-op’s Milk Buyer, said: “There are changes in store for how shoppers see milk bottle tops, with the new caps able more easily recycled and retained in the food sector unlike their coloured counterparts. There is limited availability of food grade recycled plastic, and that is a challenge. It is important that packaging is viewed as a valuable resource. We continue to work to explore new ways to make it easier to recycle and re-use these materials, and small changes to everyday issues can collectively add up to make a big difference – this is a ‘clear’ solution that can reduce the dependency on virgin plastic in the supply chain."

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Adam Herriott, Sector Specialist – Resource Management, WRAP, said: “WRAP fully supports the complete removal of pigments from HDPE milk bottle caps by Co-op, a founding member of The UK Plastics Pact. This development has helped the HDPE milk bottle increase its reputation as a shining light of the circular economy and will enable the caps to be recycled with the bottle and go back into food grade applications and therefore able to be recycled multiple times into high grade, high value materials and products. It is, however, still vitally important that citizens follow the Recycle Now and OPRL advise of ensuring that they recycle their bottle with the ‘cap on’ to make sure that they are captured and recycled effectively - We must all continue, as in industry, to go further and ensure we bring in more changes that benefit shoppers and the environment."

www.co-operative.coop

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