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News - 23 October 2007

Supermarkets must reduce packaging

Supermarkets must take urgent action to reduce excessive packaging or Britain will fail to meet its recycling targets, council leaders warned today. The call came as new research published by the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed up to 40 per cent of a regular household shopping basket cannot be recycled.

The LGA commissioned British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) Social Research to buy a range of common food items from eight retailers. Analysis of the purchases found that local retailers and market traders produced less packaging and that more of it could be recycled with the larger supermarkets lagging behind.

BMRB Social Research found five per cent of the total weight of shopping baskets was made up of packaging. The most environmentally friendly retailers have low levels of packaging a high proportion of which is recyclable. The supermarket with the heaviest packaging was Lidl's (799.5g), while the contents of the Marks & Spencer basket had the lowest level of packaging that could be recycled (60 per cent). Asda was the best performing supermarket, with packaging weighing 714g 70 per cent of which was recyclable. But the market was the best overall, with packaging weighing 710.5g, 79 per cent recyclable.

Recycling rates in Britain are increasing as more people do their bit to protect the environment. Councils are also extending and improving their recycling services in a bid to reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfill sites. The LGA has warned these efforts to meet EU recycling targets will not succeed unless supermarkets do more to reduce excessive packaging.

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA's Environment Board, said: 'People are working hard to increase their recycling rates, but their efforts are being hamstrung by needlessly over-packaged products on sale in supermarkets. We all have a responsibility to reduce the amount of waste being thrown into landfill, which is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change.

'Many supermarkets are taking action to cut back on excessive packaging, but this research proves there is an urgent need to do more. Councils and council tax payers are facing fines of up to £3 billion if we do not dramatically reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfill.'

Cllr Bettison added:

'Councils want to work constructively with supermarkets to look at solutions to the problem of excessive packaging. There are many examples from our research of how retailers are making it easier for their customers to recycle, including the use of paper bags and removing layers of packaging. However, we have to question the necessity and desirability of shrink wrapping vegetables like peppers and broccoli.'

Cllr Bettison added councils should work with retailers to target consumers in shops as they were making their choices.

'Evidence from other countries has shown that when local authorities work with supermarkets to educate consumers, there is a significant increase in the sale of products with less packaging. It is important shoppers are actively encouraged to consider the environmental impact of their purchases.'

Locally, retailers in the North Laine area have already taken steps to work with consumers and reduce the use of plastic bags. 

On Tuesday 17th October, The North Laine Traders Association launched a sustainable, reusable bag.  It has been estimated that re-using one North Laine sustainable bag saves up to 1000 plastic bags in its lifetime.

Read related items on:
Retail, pubs, clubs and restaurants
Climate Change
Local Government Association
North Laine Traders Association

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