The UK grocery sector is on target to meet self-imposed waste food and packaging targets, as per the Courtauld Commitment, despite a 1.8 per cent sector growth and a 0.5 per cent population growth year-on-year.
The announcement was made by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) at a summit it hosted today, attended by some of the leading manufacturers and retailers from the food sector. Packaging growth has ended, the organisation reported, and the firms involved are now in ripe form to decrease the numbers by 2010.
Speaking at the summit, environment minister Joan Ruddock said: “Packaging is the most visual, intrusive and irritating part of household rubbish. People say they feel it’s out of their control and they want something done about it.”
Ruddock applauded the “increasingly innovative solutions” that manufacturers are bringing in to cut waste and packaging but carbon dioxide emissions, not weight, should ultimately be the gauge of success, she warned.
“Food waste is one area where we can make a big difference. For every tonne of food we can prevent being thrown away, we can save four and a half tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and I would urge signatories to keep this in mind when considering how to tackle this problem,” added Ruddock.
The Courtauld Commitment was set up by WRAP in 2006, in conjunction with Defra and the Scottish and Welsh governments, with three main aims: to design out packaging waste growth by 2008 (achieved, as per today’s announcement); to deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010; and to identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste. With the Commitment due to end in 2010, WRAP said they will concentrate their efforts on signing up more manufacturers, demonstrating the progress made to consumers and delivering change throughout the supply chain. A successor arrangement was broached at the summit to continue improvements into the next decade.
Courtauld Commitment signatory Britvic was celebrated by WRAP for redesigning the bottles of its Robinson brand to cut down on packaging materials. By shaving 1.5 grams of weight and 1.5 mm in height off its one-litre bottle, the firm has saved 250 tonnes of plastic. A further 800 tonnes were saved by similar reductions to the two, three and four-litre bottles. By knock-on effect, the cardboard used to display the bottles was reduced by five per cent, said Britvic.
At the summit today, two more of the UK’s most recognised house-hold brands pledged their commitment to the cause. Weetabix and Proctor & Gamble became the latest signatories to rise to the challenge, joining peers like Northern Foods, Heinz, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Muller, Nestlé and Mars. All the major supermarkets are also involved.
The pair are member companies of the Food and Drink Federation whose director general Melanie Leech commended the efforts of the food sector all round.
She said: “It’s great news that the industry has met the Courtauld target to halt packaging growth, and that we are now on track to cut food and packaging waste by 2010.
“As part of FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition we have been encouraging our members to make a significant contribution to WRAP’s work on reducing the level of packaging reaching households, as well as seeking to send zero of our own food and packaging waste to landfill from 2015,” added Leech.
WRAP are appealing for as many manufacturers and retailers to sign up to the Courtauld Commitment as possible. For more information, firms are advised to contact [email protected]
A Sustainable Manufacturing stream at The Manufacturer Live event in October will offer firms invaluable strategic advice through various seminars on how to cut things like packaging and waste. The event this year is being held at the Excel Centre, London. See www.themanufacturer.com/live for more info or email [email protected] to attend.