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Comment: The Big Challenge

Tackling packaging and food waste is a big challenge that has this week been embraced by both the Government and retailers. The Courtauld Commitment signed by 13 retailers following discussions with Environment Minister Elliot Morley, the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) sets a number of actions to reduce packaging generated in retail outlets.

The targets involve designing out packaging waste growth by 2008, delivering absolute reductions in packaging waste by March 2010 and identifying ways to tackle the problem of food waste. These are challenging targets, particular as the bulk of food and packaging waste originates in supermarkets and convenience stores.

According to BRC director general Dr Kevin Hawkins, there are an average of 30,000 different product lines in supermarkets and each one will require a different solution. Though product specification for each will be a long process before it gets to critical mass, suppliers are under the same pressures as retailers so are more than likely to be on board to produce packaging designs that reduce costs as well as being less harmful to the environment.

Getting the buy in of the consumer will be key, known to be a fickle beast at the best of times.

The aim of the Commitment is to tackle those products where people feel they have no choice.

They have to buy these everyday products but feel that too much packaging is used. And though the public understand the need to minimise packaging they don't want it affecting the products they're buying. Product safety and the freshness of food cannot be compromised with the introduction of less packaging.

The Courtauld Commitment will be reviewed in 12 months but with the commitment from senior level we should see some real change.

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This will be my last foreword as Paul Sanderson takes over as editor on MRW . Paul is a familiar face in the industry and has already done a fantastic job as my deputy overseeing production of the magazine as well as playing a key role in shaping and developing our website www.mrw.co.uk

I'm not leaving for pastures new but will retain overall editorial control over the wide portfolio that MRW has now become, in particular on events and conferences.

I will also be in charge of new product development, looking at a variety of areas where we can enhance the portfolio.

MRW remains at the core of all our products and we will continue to retain high editorial quality and our position as market leader in this industry.

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