A new compostable carrier bag is being rolled out across co-operative retail stores in the south of England.
The new, full size shopping bag is made out of corn starch and will replace the smaller compostable bags previously offered in 44 of Southern Co-op's retail stores.
The independent, regional co-operative, is offering the environmentally-friendly bag in 75 of its stores where the local authority collects household food waste recycling.
They are also designed to be used as a food waste caddy liner and will be sold at 5p each - cheaper than most food waste liners sold in rolls.
The new bags will be offered in Southern Co-op stores Berkshire (Newbury, Windsor and Lambourn), Devon (Cranbrook, Crediton, Bow and Exmouth), Dorset (Blandford Forum, Shaftesbury, Sturminster Newton, Weymouth, Wimborne and Verwood), Kent (Seasalter, Sidcup, Lenham, Minster, Ashford, Cliffe Woods and Whitstable), Hampshire (Chandlers Ford, Boyatt Wood, Fairoak, Eastleigh, West End, Southampton's Hursley Road), London (Ealing, Shirley, Wimbledon, Chislehurst and Bromley), Bristol and Somerset (Banwell, Bath, Bedminster, Bridgwater, Bristol, Burnham on Sea, Clevedon, Cotford St Luke, Frome, Hanham, Keynsham, Nailsea, Norton Fitzwarren, Pill, Portishead, Stoke Gifford, Taunton and Yeovil), Surrey (Banstead, Caterham, Oxted, Farnham, West Ewell, Chobham, Camberley, Wrecclesham, Reigate, Rowledge, Addlestone, Staines and Chertsey), and Sussex (Emsworth and Brighton).
Gemma Lacey, Director of Sustainability and Communications, said: "Ultimately we want to encourage our customers to reuse bags they already own and move away from single-use shoppers altogether but we are a convenience store so understand this is not always practical.
"We hope this new bag will prevent more plastic from ending up in landfill - this echoes our existing efforts to prevent waste and use resources more wisely. As part of the commitment to remove all single-use plastic from Co-op own-brand products, three out of four Co-op branded products are now widely recyclable."
The new compostable carrier bags are strong enough to carry heavy items and are certified as compostable meaning they will break down within 12 weeks under specified conditions.
To prevent the bags being sent to landfill, they will initially only be available where the local authority collects household food waste. However, they are approved for home composting so trials will be carried out in other stores to see if there is a demand for the compostable carrier bag.
Where food recycling is not available, Southern Co-op is also looking at making it easier for customers to recycle their current 5p carrier bags and 10p bags for life which are already recyclable.
Re-useable bags currently available in Southern Co-op stores include the green recyclable bags for life, a foldaway bag for life made from 100% recycled PET and a large textile shopper made from 100% recycled polypropylene.
Southern Co-op, through its membership of the Federal Retail Trading Services buying group with Co-op Group and other regional co-operative societies, supports and shares a commitment to see all Co-op brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023. There is also a promise to use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021.
Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager at Co-op Group, said: "Reducing environmental impacts is, and always has been, at the core of Co-op Group's efforts.
"The bags are carefully designed to help local authorities with food waste recycling and, reduce plastic contamination in a targeted way. Reducing the environmental impact of our products and eliminating single-use plastic is a priority.
"Co-operation is in our DNA and we are keen to share our work with others and, we welcome measures designed to make recycling simpler and more accessible for consumers - bringing together supply and waste value chains to achieve a more circular economy."
To find out more about Southern Co-op's commitment to the environment, visit www.southernco-op.co.uk/our-plan/.