Local authorities take on packaging waste

The Local Government Association has once again hit out at retailers for excessive packaging, saying the 'cling film coconut' must end.

Last October, the LGA sent market researchers out to a selection of supermarkets, local shops and market stalls with a shopping list of common products, then analysed the packaging that came with their haul.

The association has now repeated the exercise to assess any changes over the last seven months – and found that while there have been slight improvements, the situation is much the same.

It will perhaps come as no surprise that supermarkets were the worst offenders when it came to packaging, followed by smaller shops, with market traders having the lowest level of packaging with the highest level of recyclable materials.

What might come as more of a surprise was that Marks & Spencer, a vocal advocate of green consumerism well known for its Plan A CSR strategy, had the lowest level of packaging that could be recycled at just 62% – an honour it shared with budget supermarket Lidl, which also used the most packaging overall in the LGA’s random sample.

Asda had the best results for a supermarket, taking a cue from its American owner Walmart which has in recent years undergone an almost biblical conversion to the cause of green consumerism.

The survey suggested that since last October retailers have reduced the weight of packaging slightly (five per cent less) and there is a small increase in the share of that material which is recyclable (up to 62% from 60%).

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA environment board, said: “The days of the cling film coconut must come to an end. We all have a responsibility to reduce the amount of waste being thrown into landfill, which is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change.

“Families will be pleased to see that more packaging in their shopping baskets can now be recycled.

“However, this survey shows there is still a lot further to go. Reducing packaging is vital if we are to avoid paying more landfill tax and EU fines, which could lead to cuts in frontline services and increases in council tax.”

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) said the report highlights that progress is being made, but also that it is slower than it should be.

“In the UK, the Producer Responsibility (Packaging) Regulations are proving to be an efficient driver, ensuring that more packaging is recovered and recycled by putting the responsibility where it belongs; with businesses who make or use the packaging,” said a statement from the trade body.

“However, positive progress to date has been focused on the significant volumes of industrial and commercial packaging that are relatively uncontaminated and easy to access.

“Retail packaging that ends up in the household waste bin is a much bigger challenge and one that can only be resolved through real partnership working throughout the packaging supply chain and beyond to the consumer.”

CIWM said producer responsibility targets should be increased so that manufacturers and retailers were forced to tackle difficult-to-reach materials which end up in household bins.

It also called for more co-operation along the supply chain and for retailers and brand owners to use their procurement clout to influence the type and quantity of packaging waste reaching the consumer.

Sam Bond

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