Excessive packaging hindering war on waste, says LGA

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Retailing Recycling

A new survey has found that almost 40 per cent of supermarket food packaging in the UK cannot be easily recycled.

The third report from the Local Government Association (LGA)’s ‘War on Waste’ campaign said that excessive packaging in supermarkets contributes to the estimated £1.8bn councils will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011.

Since its first survey in October 2007, the LGA reports that the weight of food packaging has been reduced overall but that the proportion that can be recycled has changed little.

However, it mentions that Marks & Spencer is now the second best supermarket in terms of the weight of its packaging, having been second to last in the previous two surveys.

The survey, conducted by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) for the LGA, also found that Waitrose had the heaviest packaging with Tesco having the lightest.

Lidl had the least recyclable packaging on the products, according to the report’s findings, but Sainsbury’s comes in top in this regard.

Better labelling

The LGA study also noted that there has been a great improvement in labelling of products since the earlier surveys, with many items showing details about whether packaging is widely recyclable, recyclable in some areas due to availability of facilities, or not recyclable.

The association argues that retailers should contribute towards the collection of their packaging as an incentive to cut back. Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:

“At a time when we’re in recession and shoppers are feeling the pinch, we have to move on from a world that tolerates cling filmed coconuts and shrink wrapped tins of baked beans.

“If we had less unnecessary packaging it would cut costs and lead to lower prices at the tills. When packaging is sent to landfill, it’s expensive for taxpayers and damaging for the environment. Supermarkets need to up their game so it’s easier for people to do their bit to help the environment.”

Design out waste

A spokesperson for the food industry representative body, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told FoodProductionDaily.com that the LGA report confirms that there are still significant issues to address.

“However, it is important for everyone involved to work together to improve the situation. Food manufacturers are taking their responsibilities very seriously and doing a lot to minimise packaging and waste.

“Many companies have already made an explicit agreement to achieve an absolute reduction in the amount of packaging reaching households by 2010 by signing up to the Courtauld Commitment.”

The Courtauld Commitment, according to scheme operators, WRAP, achieved its goal of designing out packaging waste growth by 2008. The project involves collaboration between UK retailers, food manufacturers and their suppliers.

And WRAP claims the initiative has kick-started projects that involve the reduction in weight of bottles, cans and boxes; the increase in the use of refill and self-dispensing systems as well as collaboration on packaging design guidance.

Related topics Processing & packaging

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