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LGA survey: supermarkets not doing enough to make packaging easier to recycle

Supermarkets Waitrose and Lidl have the least recyclable packaging in the UK, according to a new study by the Local Government Association.

In its third survey, War on waste, the LGA said that while the total weight of supermarket food packaging had reduced in the past two years, almost 40 per cent still cannot be easily recycled.
Waitrose had the third-lowest percentage of recyclable packaging (62 per cent), behind Asda (59.7 per cent) and Lidl (57.8 per cent). Waitrose had the heaviest packaging (803 grams) and
Tesco the lightest (645.5g).

Since the LGAs first survey in October 2007 (see MRW story) the weight of packaging has been reduced overall but the proportion that can be recycled has changed little. Lidl is still bottom at the table in terms of the recyclability of its packaging.

The 29 items compared from the typical shopping basket included fruit and vegetable, minced beef, cherry tomatoes, meat and fish products, baked beans, cookies and pizza.

LGA chairwoman Margaret Eaton said: At a time when were 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. Families are fed up with having to carry so much packaging home from the supermarket.

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

Waitrose said that it believed the LGA report to be misleading. A spokeswoman said: It fails to use accurate comparisons- a 500g tomato punnet at Waitrose is compared to a 250g punnet at most other stores. An accurate way to assess packaging would be by comparing per 100g of a product.

The LGA is calling on the Government to make retailers responsible for funding the collection of packaging so they have a direct incentive to produce less. Excessive and unnecessary packaging contributes to the estimated £1.8bn councils will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011.

But the British Retail Consortium has said that retailers already pay more than £5 billion a year in business rates towards local authority funding. BRC head of environment Bob Gordon said:
The biggest barrier to recycling is local authorities failure to agree on which materials theyre prepared to recycle.

Its a nonsense to suggest that retailers swathe their goods in masses of unnecessary packaging. This would simply be a pointless cost. Packaging reduces waste by protecting and preserving products.

The report acknowledged that there had been a great improvement in labelling of supermarket products since the previous reports, with many items showing details about whether packaging is widely recyclable, recyclable in some areas where facilities exist or not recyclable.

Your view

Incpen director Jane Bickerstaffe said: The report is naïve and shows a singular lack of knowledge of the modern supply chain and what it takes to feed a nation of 60 million. Ranking retailers on 29 products is nonsense. Its not comparing like with like. Products have different supply chains and different amounts of transport packaging. Some products have a short shelf life, others are mad to last longer. The amount of packaging has to reflect this.

My view

Instead of pointing fingers at each other everybody (retailer, local authorities and the consumer) should be working together to cut down on their waste and save the planet from being swamped in rubbish.

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