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Retailers want 'more clarity' on packaging targets

British retailers have called for more clarity on packaging targets in the circular economy (CE) package.

A 75% recycling target for packaging waste was mooted in the European Commission’s proposals, released in December. But the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said a change in the definition of recycling could affect the impact this has on retailers.

Speaking at the launch of the BRC’s latest progress report on its voluntary resource efficiency initiative, A Better Retailing Climate (ABRC), the group welcomed the “design half” of the CE package because it could “break down some barriers”.

BRC environment policy adviser Alice Ellison said: “Before, the packaging targets applied to recycling and recovery; now it’s recycling and preparation for reuse.

“So it might be a 75% target but, compared with what we do now, is it actually an 80% target? Until we understand what they actually mean, we are unable to comment further. But it will impact retail.”

Ellison (pictured) said the consortium was waiting for information from Defra and the Commission on how extended producer responsibility laws in the CE package could affect UK retailers.

She said the BRC had spoken to Defra about the CE package, and the department was in a “similar position” in terms of working out what its stance was.

The latest ABRC report said that retailers were on course to meet a target of landfilling less than 1% of their waste by 2020 and were working along the supply chain to reduce food waste.

Seven UK supermarkets are signed up to ABRC, representing 85% of the grocery sector, and also pledged to review current specifications for produce, smarter ways to forecast and opportunities to improve storage and transportation.

A BRC report released in October showed that those supermarkets produced 180,000 tonnes of food waste in store, less than 2% of the UK total.

But Ellison said: “While their own waste is relatively minimal, they are in a key position to influence and drive down waste in the supply chain and at home.”

She added that the BRC was keen that the food waste debate, which has attracted national media coverage recently, focused on the supply chain and household waste rather than supermarkets.

Ellison said she expected WRAP’s next Courtauld Commitment, scheduled to be launched shortly, to have a much broader focus across the supply chain and at home.

The latest ABRC report also mentions the recent closures of major plastics recyclers, saying falling oil prices are making it harder to find markets for recycled plastics.

“Retailers are continuing to move away from sending waste to landfill and, during the period to 2020, this focus will move up the waste hierarchy to waste prevention and reuse,” it says.

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