This will be welcome news to food and drink manufacturers who have made significant efforts in recent years to cut down on material use and offer more recyclable or biodegradable products.

According to a survey out today (March 30) by the Food & Drink Federation, consumers are not only registering reductions in the food packaging they buy, but two-thirds have noticed an increase in the amount that can be recycled or reused.

This coincides with a report into the drinks packaging market that found shoppers are drawn to the recyclability of aluminum and steel cans, which is now a key consideration in their purchasing decisions.

The research by Can Makers revealed that 53% of respondents thought environmental considerations were “very or quite important” when making a purchase.

Consumer brands in Britain appear to be particularly good at marketing greener messages. Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed in the UK thought beverage cans could be recycled or reused, compared with only 40% in Spain and 41% in France.

According to Can Makers chairman Geoff Courtney the findings are a “great achievement” but he feels more work needs to be done in offering consumers convenient disposal points for their cans, particularly when out and about.

“With one in five finding it difficult to recycle, more needs to be done to ensure that drinks cans do not go to waste,” he maintained, adding that there was a definite call among those surveyed for more bins in public places.

Meanwhile the Food & Drink Federation intends to build on the positive work undertaken by its members by pressing on with its five-fold environmental ambition targets towards greater resource efficiency.

The targets, which look to reduce packaging alongside emissions, waste and water usage, were launched back in 2007.

Since then federation members have cut the carbon impact of their packaging by 1.2% and reduced product and packaging waste in their supply chains by 6.9%.

The federation’s focus now is to make a significant contribution to WRAP’s Courtauld 2 target of reducing the carbon impact of packaging by 10% by 2012 against a 2009 baseline.

Its director of sustainability & competitiveness Andrew Kuyk reported that following WRAP’s progress report, a 5.1% reduction in packaging had been achieved over the period of 2009 – 10.

“This is further evidence that the industry is making steady progress towards the 10% target by the end of 2012,” he said.

The challenge many consumer brands face in terms of keeping that momentum going is in looking beyond their own manufacturing processes and engineering better supply chain engagement.

According to Kraft Food’s UK president Nick Bunker, who chairs the federation’s sustainability steering group, such efforts will require a great deal of collaboration.

“We set ourselves a number of new aims relating to the raw materials we use and what happens to the products we make and sell across their whole life cycle,” he said.

Success, he added, would depend on “collective action as well as our own efforts, ideally in the context of a shared vision about the future direction of travel”.

Maxine Perella

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