The UK’s Co-op supermarket chain has announced it is to use 100% degradable plastic wrappers for its own-brand loaves of bread.

The chain said it was launching Britain’s first 100% degradable plastic bread wrappers following its recent survey in which six out of ten people said retailers should use only degradable or biodegradable materials.

The Co-op said its wrappers are just as strong and as safe as standard plastic bread wrappers, but fully degrade to carbon dioxide, water and a small amount of organic residue after approximately four years. Standard plastic bread bags take 100 years or more to degrade.

Some 1.67 billion bread bags are produced in the UK each year, generating around 10,521 tonnes of waste every year. Around 55 million Co-op brand loaves are sold each year, generating 346 tonnes of bread bags in household waste per annum.

“Our survey into the ethics of supermarket products demonstrated that on every count – including packaging – consumers are more concerned today than they were ten years ago,” said the Cooperative Group’s Christine Clarke.

“As a result of this, we have committed to introducing more environmentally-sound packaging, such as degradable and biodegradable materials, across our range by taking advantage of technological developments,” she added.