Supermarkets urged to cut waste

13-11-2006

Supermarkets urged to cut waste
The government has warned the UK's supermarkets that they must do more to reduce the amount of waste that is generated from "unnecessary and excessive packaging".

Following a meeting with the country's top grocery chains today,local environment minister Ben Bradshaw said that while efforts by retailers to reduce waste were welcome, further action was needed to encourage consumers to follow their lead.

Mr Bradshaw's comments came after discussions with retailers over what progress they had made in implementing an industry-wide commitment to cut waste through measures such as increased recycling and the use of degradable packing materials.

The so-called Courtauld Commitment, which is supported by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), is backed by 13 UK retailers and is aimed at reducing the amount of packaging and food waste that is disposed of by consumers.

Actions taken by retailers over the past year to reduce waste include new innovations to keep food fresher for longer in order to cut the amount which is thrown away and the adoption of overall long-term targets by retailers related to cutting packaging and reducing household waste, Defra said.

But commenting on the moves, Mr Bradshaw argued that further action was still needed to encourage consumers to cut waste.

"I am impressed by the commitment that has been shown over the past year by retailers, but the action has to go further and has to be more visible to consumers," the minister said.

"Until the supermarkets demonstrate clearly that they are willing to lead by example we cannot expect consumers to get fully engaged with reducing their own waste," he added.

His comments were echoed by Wrap chief executive Jennie Price, who attended today's meeting and stressed that retailers had to "step up" their efforts to reduce waste.

"We need to reverse the trends that have led to our 'throw away' habits," said Ms Price.

"The retail sector has an enormous capacity to influence and innovate in this area, and the real impact will come when the commitment to reducing packaging and food waste becomes 'business as usual'," she said.

However, ahead of the meeting, the country's leading supermarket chains had stressed that they had made progress in reducing waste.

Speaking on the Today programme, Alison Austin, head of environmental management at Sainsbury's, said the retailer had done a "great deal" over the past couple of years to reduce packaging waste.

Initiatives highlighted by Ms Austin included work by Sainsbury's to create home compostable packaging made of sugar cane waste, natural plant material and maize starch.

"We've got something like 150 million [home compostable] trays and packs in our system, which means that we've taken out of the whole packaging system three and a half tonnes of plastic," she said.

The government wants at least 70 per cent of all packaging waste to be recovered, largely through recycling, by 2010.



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