Headlines: July 29th, 2008

New figures show that food retailers have stopped the growth of packaging used in Britain in spite of an increase in sales. Statistics from the Waste and Resources Action Programme – Wrap shows that the retailers put the same amount of grocery packaging on
the market in 2007 as they did the year before.

The news will be welcomed by local authorities which have been campaigning for action to ensure the level of packaging is reduced. In May this year the Local Government Association called on the Government to make producers and retailers responsible for the costs of collecting packaging waste.

The Wrap figures show retailers still produced more than 2.5 million tonnes of packaging last year. The latest figures, though, meet the first target set under the Courtauld Commitment, the voluntary
initiative by 32 brands and retailers to tackle packaging and food waste. The target was mainly met by falls in the weight of packaging rather than in the size of products.

Wrap now wants the amount of packaging to be cut by at least 100,000 tonnes by 2010 and it is looking at a possible new agreement to replace the Courtauld Commitment. That could involve measuring the carbon impact of packaging and work on reducing food waste and packaging at ‘back of store’ and in the supplychain. Wrap’s chief executive Liz Goodwin welcomed the
fact that the grocery sector had responded positively to the challenge of tackling packaging and food waste. “Their achievement in ending packaging growth is an impressive one, particularly against the backdrop of unexpectedly high grocery sales and population growth,” she said.

The Environment Minister, Joan Ruddock, said packaging was the most visual, intrusive and irritating part of household rubbish. “Wrap, retailers and brands have made progress together and are coming up with increasingly innovative solutions but we need to keep moving forward,” she added.