UK grocer Co-op is removing the plastic packaging from its Easter eggs, as part of its commitment to eliminate unnecessary plastic from its private brand ranges.

The retailer is eradicating the use of plastic inner packaging and windows for all five of its hollow Fairtrade Easter eggs, which will save over 14 tons of unnecessary plastic.

The move comes as the ethical retailer gets ready to roll out the UK’s largest ever scheme to collect and recycle plastic film as part of its ambition to make 100% of its own-brand packaging easy to recycle by the end of this year.

Iain Ferguson, environment manager at Co-op, said: “Easter egg packaging is renowned for its excessive use of unnecessary plastic, whether to protect the chocolate or to display the design of the confectionery.

“Our teams have worked incredibly hard to deliver a new solution that ensures the egg is still protected whilst allowing our customers to see all the aspects of the eggs and their stunning designs. This is a really positive step within the packaging industry, especially for seasonal Easter lines.”

Co-op has also reduced its reliance on virgin or ‘new’ plastic and now uses almost 40% recycled content in private brand packaging. Last year Co-op became the first retailer to switch all of its 500ml, 750ml, one liter and two-liter private brand still, sparkling and flavored water, carbonated drinks and mixers to bottles made out of 100% recycled material, meaning they are fully recycled and recyclable – this move alone saved 1,400 tons of virgin plastic from being produced each year.

From April 2021, Co-op will have also removed all plastic forks from its food-to-go ranges, saving 59 tons plastic. And in November 2020, it announced plans to remove all plastic and glitter from its 2020 Christmas celebration range cutting out an impressive 1.1miliion pieces of plastic (eight tons).

Iain continued: “To date, we have replaced over 7,000 tons of virgin plastic with recycled plastic in our own brand packaging and we’re committed to eliminating all unrecyclable plastic. We’re pleased to confirm that we’re also on track to meet our target for all Co-op own-branded products to be easy to recycle this year.”

Paula Chin, sustainable materials specialist at WWF-UK, said: “There is no reason we can’t be both festive and plastic free, and it is great to see businesses like Co-op tackling our throwaway culture head-on. Easter and spring are a time we celebrate the natural world, and not a time to further pollute our planet.

“We need to see more businesses, producers and governments all taking greater responsibility. The natural world isn’t a luxury – it is our life support system and we must act now to protect it, before it’s too late.”

Michael Briggs, Head of Sustainability at Which? said: “Our research shows the recyclability of grocery packaging is important to consumers, yet almost half of packaging used by supermarkets is not widely recyclable, so it is good to see the Co-op taking steps to reduce its use of plastic packaging.

“To reduce the waste that goes to landfill, the government must make labeling mandatory, simple and clear, enabling shoppers to know exactly how to dispose of packaging on the products they consume.”

Co-op’s Fairtrade, own-brand Easter eggs launch in stores nationwide from 15 February 2021. The range consists of Co-op Irresistible Hand-Finished Golden Praline Egg (300g/£8), Co-op Irresistible Extra Thick Valencia Orange Crunch Egg (220g/£6.00), Co-op Salted Caramel & Pretzel Belgian Milk Chocolate Loaded Egg (200g/£5.00), Co-op Golden Honeycomb Belgian Milk Chocolate Loaded Egg (200g/£5.00) and Co-op Free From Choc Easter Egg & Caramel Flavour Truffles (120g/£3.50).