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Supermarket giant calls on local authorities to collect plastics

Light weighting packaging materials will not have any environmental impact unless all local authorities start collecting plastics, according to supermarket Asda.

Under the voluntary Courtauld Commitment, Asda agreed to a 25% packaging reduction target for its own label food products by 2008 in order to reduce waste.

An Asda spokesman said: Switching packaging to lighter materials is a good thing and beneficial. But switching from some materials to other materials without the right recycling collection facilities nationwide means that some of those materials will end up going into landfill.

The spokesman used the example of an olive oil bottle and said that most olive oil glass bottles have changed format to plastic bottles. He said that Asda was lowering the weight of its packaging but said that some customers could not recycle the packaging because their local council would not collect it.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) environment executive Farah Nazeer said: Light weighting is a positive move in the right direction as its reducing the materials used in packaging, the embedded carbon and the carbon used to transport the goods. However, questions remain over the recyclability of many packaging materials due in part to local authorities not collecting a wide range of materials and the persisting inconsistencies from one authority to another, as well as a lack of infrastructure.

The Asda spokesman added: More than 92% of our packaging can be easily recycled but only if you live in the right part of town. Asda said that it will be working with stakeholders throughout the industry to try and provide a solution to make it easier for customers to do the right thing.

His comments follow new research from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) which showed that recycling mixed plastics could be cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
WRAP did the research to see if it made financial sense to recycle mixed plastics and if recycling would be better for the environment than burning or sending material to landfill.

It said that there was a Catch 22 situation, with few local authorities prepared to collect plastic waste other than bottles, as there is limited potential for them to be recycled. The study showed that the best environmental option was to invest in technology to produce high quality recycled plastics.

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