Processors commit to reducing packaging waste

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Packaging

Faced with pressure from the UK's major retailers, Heinz, Northern
Foods and Unilever have signed a commitment to reduce packaging

Jennie Price, the chief executive officer of Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap),said yesterday the three companies had pledged support for a commitment signed last year between 13retailers and government to cut down on the amount of packaging going to landfill. The agreement isknown as the Courtauld Commitment.

Wrap is a government-backed programme charged with ensuring that the UK meets EU requirements onreducing waste throughout the bloc. Price made the announcement at a meeting of the 13 retailers andgovernment officials to discuss the efforts made so far.

Government is focusing on retailers so they can push their suppliers to cut down on packagingwaste, either by reducing the amount they use for their products, or by switching to more recyclable,reusable and biodegradable materials.

At the meeting the retailers outlined a range of actions they have taken over the past year, includingusing less packaging that is already on-shelf, innovations that keep food fresher for longer and so cut the amount that is thrownaway. They also set longer term targets that embed household waste reduction in the retailers' corporatestrategies.

Ben Bradshaw, minister for local environment, said more action was needed from retailers as anexample to consumers and industry. He said the real impact of any measures will come when the commitment to reducing packaging and food waste becomes 'business asusual'.

"This is what we expect to see moving forward and the willingness of leading brands to come on board is extremely welcomeas it increases the momentum and draws in the wider supply chain,"​ he told the meeting.

The retailers suggested follow up action on food waste, a greater use of biopolymers and compostable packaging, anda consistent means of placing on-pack recycling information for consumers.

Bradshaw and Price said they would hold a series of round table discussions with retailers and otherrelevant stakeholders on the three issues.

Meanwhile Asda reported it has set packaging reduction targets of 10 per cent by 2008. Sainsbury'shas made a pledge to cut packaging by 5 per cent by 2010. Waitrose have put in place targets to keep futurepackaging levels below those of 2002, and have cut packaging waste growth by 15 per cent in the lastyear.

Meanwhile Morrison's and the Musgrave Group, made up of Budgens and Londis, are in the process of revising their packaging guidelines toincorporate the need for packaging reduction. Somerfield is redesigning their ready meal packaging to extend shelf life and cutfood waste.

The Courtauld Commitment is between the 13 retailers and WRAP, and was developed in partnership with Defra, the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government, the British and Scottish Retails Consortia and the IGD.

Those who have made pledges include Asda, Boots, Budgens, the Co-operative Group, Londis, Iceland, Kwik Save, Marks & Spencer,Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose.

The commitment calls for them to design out packaging waste growth by 2008, to deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by March 2010and to identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste.

WalMart this month announced the online rollout of a "green" rating system for the packaging used by all of its product suppliers, one that will eventually determine who can sell to the world's largest retailer.

About 2,000 private label suppliers to Wal-Mart began imputing data on the packaging they use for their products into the groundbreaking system 1 November. The creation of the packaging rating system is a significant part of the bid by the retailer to become more environmentally-friendly and meet the demands of its customers.

The company's "substainable scorecard" system is a bid by the retailer to push up to 60,000 of its suppliers worldwide to lower the amount of packaging they use by five per cent, use more renewable materials and slash energy use.

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