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Excessive packaging still costing shoppers 17.02.09

Excessive food packaging used by supermarkets is undermining householders’ efforts to recycle more and is adding to council tax bills, a new report from the Local Government Association will say today (17th Feb).

In its third survey of the food packaging found in a typical basket of shopping, the Local Government Association, a cross-party organisation representing councils in England, found that almost 40 per cent of supermarket food packaging cannot be easily recycled. Excessive and unnecessary packaging contributes to the estimated £1.8bn councils will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011.

The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) was commissioned by the LGA to look at eight supermarkets and the weight of food packaging they use in a typical shopping basket. The survey found that:

- Waitrose had the heaviest packaging (802.5 grams)

- Lidl had the lowest level of packaging that could be easily recycled (58 per cent)

- Tesco had the lightest (645.5 grams)

- Sainsbury’s had the highest level of packaging that could be easily recycled (67 per cent).

Council leaders say that whilst people are recycling more rubbish, their efforts are being held back by supermarkets. The LGA will argue that supermarkets should pay towards recycling services so that more packaging can be recycled at an affordable price which will help keep council tax down.

Landfill tax costs councils £32 for every tonne of rubbish they throw away - a figure that will rise to £48 a tonne by 2010. At current rates of landfill, this will mean councils paying an extra £360m in landfill taxes over the next two years.

Since the LGA’s first survey in October 2007 the weight of food packaging has been reduced overall but the proportion that can be recycled has changed little. Marks & Spencer is now the second best supermarket in terms of the weight of its packaging, having been second to last in the previous two surveys.

Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:

“At a time when we’re in recession and shoppers are feeling the pinch, we have to move on from a world that tolerates cling filmed coconuts and shrink wrapped tins of baked beans. Families are fed up with having to carry so much packaging home from the supermarket.

“If we had less unnecessary packaging it would cut costs and lead to lower prices at the tills. When packaging is sent to landfill, it’s expensive for taxpayers and damaging for the environment. Supermarkets need to up their game so it’s easier for people to do their bit to help the environment.”

The LGA is calling on the government to make retailers responsible for funding the collection of packaging so they have a direct incentive to produce less.

Cllr Eaton said: “Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than almost any other country in Europe. Taxpayers don’t want to see their money going towards paying landfill taxes and EU fines when council tax could be reduced instead.

“If retailers create unnecessary rubbish, they should help taxpayers by paying for it to be recycled.”

Peter Shield

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Related links

War on waste food packaging study: Wave 3 full report (PDF, 58 pages, 1592KB)

Comment on this article

1 Comment

  • Excessive packaging still costing shoppers

    17 February 2009 12:58, by Peter Shield

    Friends of the Earth call for much tougher tragets on packaging

    In response to the Local Government Association’s packaging survey, Friends of the Earth’s senior waste campaigner, Michael Warhurst said:

    "It will come as no surprise to frustrated householders that the supermarkets are still forcing them to take home lots of packaging that they can’t put in their recycling box.

    "The Government must force supermarkets to cut out waste by toughening up targets for recyclable packaging - currently less than a third of plastic packaging has to be recycled.

    "Councils should separate our recycling when they collect it - this will ensure that materials can easily be re-used.

    "Recycling is a win-win - it saves valuable resources and reduces the demand for expensive, climate-wrecking landfills and incinerators."

    Reply to this comment

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