BRITAIN’S supermarkets have launched a raft of initiatives aimed at reducing excessive packaging and to demonstrate their commitment to plastic recycling.
Packaging accounts for almost one fifth of all household waste produced annually in Britain, ie around five million tonnes. An agreement by European Union leaders at the 2007 Spring European Council in Brussels to cut the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, has intensified the call for stricter packaging policies.
In response to this the main high street players are reaffirming their green credentials. Firstly, Sainsbury’s has become the first major UK supermarket to stop giving out free disposable carrier bags in its stores. Instead, Sainsbury’s will give customers an estimated seven million free re-usable ‘Bags for Life’ (usually 10p) for their shopping.
Meanwhile, Marks & Spencer committed itself to using the new plastic recycling plant in Dagenham. The recycling plant is a result of a £12 million joint private and public sector funding agreement and will be the first in the UK to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from water, soft drinks and cosmetics bottles into material for food packaging. Scheduled to open in December 2007 and operated by Closed Loop London (CLL), it will convert into packaging material 35,000 tonnes of plastic packaging, which might otherwise be exported for recycling or sent to landfill. Asda is trying a different approach. It is inviting customers at stores in York and Dewsbury to bring back examples of over-packaging so that it can put pressure on suppliers to reduce waste. Asda also aims to reduce over-packaging on all of its own-label food products by 25 per cent over the next year and says that if the trial study is successful, the shopper-led programme, called ‘Leave It with Us’, may be extended to every Asda store across the UK.