Wrap up waste

The role supermarkets can play in cutting packaging waste has come under the spotlight this week.

The role supermarkets can play in cutting packaging waste has come under the spotlight this week when the UK's top 13 grocery retailers met with Ben Bradshaw, minister for the local environment, and Jennie Price, chief executive of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Retailers reported what they have already done in the past year, including minimising packaging on supermarket shelves and developing foods that stay fresher for longer and therefore cut what is thrown away. Salad bags at Asda are now lighter, ready-meal packaging is now 30% lighter at Marks & Spencer, and the cartons have been removed from Co-op's tomato puree.

Bradshaw said: "Unnecessary and excessive packaging and waste contributes to dangerous climate change. It also adds to the cost of local authorities and the public of managing 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. 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."

At the meeting, Price announced that three major brands - Heinz, Northern Foods and Unilever - have now signed up to WRAP's Courtauld Commitment to cut packaging waste and emphasised the commitment needed to deliver real change. She said: "Consumers are making a significant contribution to tackling the nation's waste by embracing recycling and we are now looking to the retailers to step up and play their part by helping to design out waste before it happens.

"We need to reverse the trends that have led to our 'throw away' habits. 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'. This is what we expect to see moving forward and the willingness of leading brands to come on board is extremely welcome as it increases the momentum and draws in the wider supply chain."

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