Reduce packaging, firms urged

AN East of England environmental body has called on businesses to focus on reducing their packaging as a new report revealed 40% of leading supermarket packaging cannot be recycled.

AN East of England environmental body has called on businesses to focus on reducing their packaging as a new report revealed 40% of leading supermarket packaging cannot be recycled.

Eleanor Morris, East of England regional manager of Government-funded body Envirowise, said recycling was only part of the answer as the Local Government Association (LGA) released its findings.

The LGA warned that Britain will fail to hit recycling targets unless big food chains cut back on excessive packaging.

The survey found Marks & Spencer was the retailer with the lowest percentage of packaging which could be recycled at 40%, while Lidl was the worst offender when it came to total volume of packaging used, with a basket of groceries using 799.5g.


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M&S used the second highest total amount of packaging at 782g for a basket of 29 goods, while Morrisons was third highest by weight at 779g per basket.

Tesco used the least packaging by weight at 684.5g per basket.

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The findings were based on analysis of packaging used for a basket of 29 common grocery items bought form Asda, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, a local retailer and a market.

On average 5% of total weight of all the shopping baskets' content was made up of packaging.

The local market and the local retail outlet had the highest proportion of packaging which could be recycled, both at 79% of the total amount used.

Ms Morris said: “Whilst the focus for this research is on packaging recycling it is only part of the answer when it comes to improving sustainability. The aim should be to cut waste from packaging designs up front - not just rely on the options for recycling.”

While many businesses believed that more packaging equals increased product protection, this is often not the case, she pointed out. It was possible to “design out” waste from packaging, ensuring it is fit for purpose and can still cope with the demands of production, distribution and storage, but reducing the amount of raw material used.

“With pressure also mounting on food manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions, re-designing packaging can also help optimise pallet loads, enabling businesses to positively contribute to the environment by cutting down on unnecessary travel,” she said.

“Envirowise experience has shown that inefficient design is often adding significant costs to production across many industries.”

She said the organisation had identified savings ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on the size of the firm and turnover.

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