Companies urged to do more as UK unveils new packaging strategy

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Packaging Recycling

A major reduction in food packaging, a rethink on how it is measured and a call for greater investment by packing companies to increase recycling are part of a strategy unveiled today by the UK government.

The far-reaching policy, launched by Environment minister Hilary Benn, will bid to overhaul the way the UK deals with packaging from “production line to recycling bin” over the next decade.

Strategy proposals

In its report entitled “Making the Most of Packaging" the Government has laid out a raft of new initiatives.

It has tabled a proposal to change how packaging is measured by examining what a move from weight-based to carbon-based targets would involve in practice – including cost implications.

The scheme has also called for greater investment by packaging producers to increase recycling and improve the quality of materials for recycling. The Government will consult on a number of changes the Producer Responsibility Regulations and other measures, to ensure “that the current market-based system delivers additional funding effectively”.

Objectives in this include promoting greater collaboration of all the parts of the packaging chain, making producer-funding more transparent and reviewing the role of compliance schemes and individually registered producers. In England and Wales civil sanctions could be introduced. No new funds were promised but Defra said: "The UK Government may review the effectiveness of the funding system when the Packaging Directive is reviewed."

Overall it said it would make enforcement action easier against manufacturers of excess and unnecessary packaging. Consumers will be encouraged to continue to report excessive packaging to Trading Standards.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) will work with manufacturers and retailers to reduce packaging for everyday products in line with the best on the market. It will also include negotiating the next generation of voluntary agreements for the period 2010-15.

The recyclability of packaging will aim to be improved and clear guidance provided for manufacturers on designing it with recyclability in mind, added the document.

The use of refillable and reusable packaging could be expanded, so in the future customers could have the option of buying anything from laundry detergent to coffee by simply taking empty containers back to shops to be refilled.

The Government said it would work with local authorities and packaging producers to improve household recycling services, so that in future more types of packaging are collected for recycling;

Recycling rates for plastic, glass, and aluminium will be targeted for improvement. This will mean more "recycling on the go" points introduced in public places for drinks cans, and more glass collected for recycling from pubs, clubs and restaurants. Banning of some materials, such as aluminium and glass, from landfill altogether is also being considered.

Reaction to the strategy

Launching the new strategy, Benn said: “We need to rethink the way we deal with packaging, from production line to recycling bin. The plans we’ve announced today set out how we will achieve that – with the goal of making it as easy as possible for consumers to avoid needless packaging in the first place and to get rid of what they do receive in a way that doesn’t just create more landfill. I also want consumers to play their part by reporting excess packaging wherever they see it – because we’re all in this together.

“In a few years time I want people to be able to shop without having to worry about what they’re going to do with the packaging when they get home, and where it will go after they’ve disposed of it.”

Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, said: "Packaging waste is a major issue for shoppers, local authorities and retailers – and we need to join forces to tackle it. By working across the whole supply chain, we have greater opportunities to make a positive difference. We need to cut excess packaging whilst recognising that the right packaging can help products last longer and so reduce waste. This is crucial if we are to meet UK targets for keeping waste out of landfill. We have a chance for real innovation here – so that, from design to disposal, packaging is the very best it can be – for shoppers and the environment.”

Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF) Director of Communications, Julian Hunt said: “We agree that it’s important for the Government’s packaging strategy to focus on waste prevention. That’s why members of the Food and Drink Federation have a bold ambition to send zero food and packaging waste from factories to landfill by 2015 and are working closely with WRAP and others to reduce the amount of packaging reaching households.”

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