Two-thirds of all plastic consumer goods packaging in the UK which could be recycled is being thrown away, according to figures from plastics recycling organization Recoup.
Only half a million tonnes of the 1.5 million tonnes recyclable plastic waste created each year is being recycled.
The rest goes to landfill or for incineration, because of a lack of knowledge about what can be recycled and because local authorities lack the facilities to deal with it, according to the Co-op.
Iain Ferguson, Co-op Environment Manager, said: "It is shocking that such a small percentage of plastic packaging is being recycled, especially materials that are already easy to recycle like plastic bottles.
"We need to stop thinking about this plastic as a waste and start to use it as a resource.
"What is needed is a coordinated response to the problem. This should start with retailers and major brands listening to recyclers and developing packaging that is better for recycling."
Lee Marshall, Chief Executive Officer of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac), said: "Packaging plays an important part in protecting products and preventing waste but when it has served its purpose we need to be able to recycle as much as possible.
"Having more consistent packaging makes it easier for local authorities to put in place the systems to collect it and to communicate with their residents."
The Co-op is calling on other retailers to join the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan, which works on developing new packaging to improve recyclability, and is also calling for the introduction of clear labelling to differentiate items that recyclers can’t use to make it easier for consumers and recyclers.