Retailers have hit targets to halt the growth of their packaging waste, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
They have met the first objective of the Courtauld Commitment. The commitment was started in 2005 and is a voluntary agreement between WRAP, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Scottish and Welsh governments and the UK retail sector to achieve reductions in packaging waste growth by 2008.
WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin said that grocers had used the same amount of packaging in 2007 - 2.843 million tons as they did in 2006. She said the next step was to cut at least 100,000 tons within two years.
Speaking at a media conference held at the Church House Conference Centre in London on July 21, Environment Minister Joan Ruddock said: This is the first time we have seen a halt in the growth of packaging waste. That is incredibly important to us as a Government and to consumers because consumers find that packaging is the most intrusive and irritating part of their rubbish. And what they say to us is that they feel its out of control and they cant do anything about it and that they want the people who produce the packaging to be told to do something about it.
The dramatic increase of packaging which occurred between 2003 and 2005 has not only been halted in terms of an upward trend but has been stopped.
Retailers and manufacturers have been developing packaging waste reduction solutions since 2005. These include reducing the weight of packaging in bottles, cans and boxes and increasing the use of refill and self-dispensing systems.
More than 90% of the UK grocery market has signed up to the commitment. Big names include Asda, the Co-operative Group and Marks & Spencer. All have set individual packaging waste targets for 2008 and met them. For instance, Asda has achieved a 20% reduction in its own-label packaging, with a particular focus on cutting the amount of glass used. The commitment is due to run until 2010 and WRAP revealed that retailers were on target to meet objectives on food and packaging waste.
But Ruddock said there was much more the Government wanted to do and that food waste was a priority because we are wasting huge resources. The Government hopes to increase the number to 100% of the UK grocery market and demonstrate visible change to consumers. She added that she was getting new complaints about people complaining about pharmaceutical products and small electronics (packaging). The fact that you buy a tiny battery and its in a huge ridge of plastic.
Ruddock also said that buy-one-get-one-free offers contributed to food waste. If you as a retailer want to encourage people in these more challenging times to get value for money then sell your product at half price. People who will want to buy two, three, four or five will do it.