COOP milk bottle

Today Co-op announced its commitment to removing all coloured milk bottle caps from its shelves, aiming towards more cap recyclability, following consumer trials on semi-skimmed milk in over 400 Co-op stores in August.

Clear caps will apply to Co-op’s skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk bottles across all UK stores. The company says clear bottle tops reduce colour contamination in the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) stream, allowing materials to be recycled more easily into food-grade packaging.

Apparently, green caps will be switched to clear in all stores by the end of next month, with Co-op removing red caps (for skimmed milk) and blue caps (for whole milk) in early 2023. It claims that once all caps have been switched, this could remove more than 150 tonnes of coloured plastic from HDPE streams per annum and switching all green caps first will enable 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 is limited availability of food grade recycled plastic, and that is a challenge. […] 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.”

Adam Herriott, sector specialist in resource management at WRAP, said: “This development […] 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 advice of ensuring that they recycle their bottle with the ‘cap on’ to make sure that they are captured and recycled effectively.”

Several supermarkets have trialled replacing clear caps with coloured ones this year: Waitrose partnered with Müller in April to trial replacing its coloured caps, making the move permanent the following month; and Aldi also trialled clear caps in August.