Last year the Government launched the Courtauld commitment, a voluntary agreement between 13 major retailers and the waste and resources action programme (WRAP), to reduce packaging waste. There are three broad objectives to meet, which are:
i. to design out packaging waste growth by 2008;
ii. to deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by March 2010; and
iii. to identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste.
I will shortly be meeting with the retailers and WRAP to assess progress against these objectives, and to agree next steps. I am also meeting retailers on 12 October to discuss ways in which we can take action to reduce the amount of plastic bags offered at the point of sale and encourage their reuse.
There are also two sets of regulations in place which address the environmental impact of packaging in the UK; both of which encourage producers (including retailers) to minimise packaging. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2005 are intended to increase the recovery and recycling of packaging waste. The amount of packaging waste producers have to recover and recycle, and the cost of doing so, is determined, in part, by the amount of packaging they handle. Therefore businesses can save money if they reduce the amount of packaging they deal with.
The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) place a number of requirements on all packaging placed on the market in the UK, including a requirement that packaging should be manufactured so that the volume and weight are limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance for the packed product and for the consumer.
Both regulations have led to decreases in packaging used around products. However, more still needs to be done to reduce the amount of packaging that is produced. We have asked the Advisory Committee on Packaging to work with industry to find solutions to this problem and recommend ways of encouraging businesses to further reduce the amount of packaging they use.