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Packaging Manufacturing Industry

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Huw Irranca-Davies.]

It is a pleasure to introduce this debate. First, I declare an interest as chairman of the all-party packaging manufacturing industry group, and express my thanks to the industry for some of the information that it has provided for this debate, not least the document, “Packaging’s place in society”. I have a number of copies, and if any hon. Member would like one, I would be only too happy to provide it, hopefully before the end of the debate.

I and several of my colleagues applied for this debate because of the bad press that packaging has received during the past year or so. In November 2006, The Guardian had an article on excess packaging, and in January this year, The Independent ran a series of front-page articles for a week condemning the mountain of waste, and also referred to excess packaging. As recently as yesterday, The Guardian ran an article headed “What a load of rubbish”. I want to bring some balance into the debate and to counter the allegation of excess packaging.

The hon. Gentleman is gracious, as always, to give way so early in his speech. I congratulate him on securing this important debate. The subject concerns all our constituents, and we receive many letters about it.

Does the hon. Gentleman marvel that the newspapers that criticise others for packaging inundate us day after day, particularly at weekends, with masses of bulk material, most of which we do not need and do not want, and they often package it themselves in inappropriate polythene wrappers?

I was going to make that point a little later. I agree that it seems a little hypocritical when newspapers, especially at weekends, are packaged in polythene bags. That hypocrisy is one reason for this debate, because I want to introduce some balance into our view of packaging, to examine what is excessive packaging, and to see how it can be reduced.

For some people, packaging is excessive and unnecessary—that is often said of food packaging—and I shall give some examples later; but for other people, who want to shop conveniently at supermarkets and who want produce that will remain fresh for longer, packaging is essential. The question is where the balance lies between excessive and essential packaging.

There is too much ignorance about packaging. The hon. Gentleman said that a newspaper criticised the packaging industry, retailers and supermarkets for a week when it was using polythene bag packaging for its own product. The purpose of this debate is to reduce that ignorance, and I hope that it will be one of several as the Government develop their waste strategy, as we talk about more and more recycling, and as we tackle climate change.

The packaging industry responds to consumer demand and customers’ requirements. It is not in companies’ interests to produce excessive packaging. There is no benefit for manufacturers of glass, tin, paper, board and so on in wasting energy and resources on excessive and unwanted packaging. They provide the materials for retailers to package their products, and they respond to retailers’ orders.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Does he agree that although it might not be in the interests of packaging manufacturers to produce excess packaging, it is sometimes in the interest of company marketing departments to have excessive packaging so that products take up more shelf space and are more likely to catch a consumer’s eye? That is what we must tackle, perhaps via standards throughout the industry so that no one brand is at a disadvantage. We must reduce the overall amount of packaging.

Exactly—no one would disagree with that. Examples of such packaging include giftware. The example that is quoted ad nauseam is Easter eggs, where the intention is to attract young children’s attention. Manufacturers want to attract people’s attention to their products to sell them, and advertising plays a role. The packaging on some products—for example, cosmetics—is worth more than what is in the bottle. I could quote several examples from the drinks industry in which the cost of making the bottle is around 30p, which is expensive, and the bottle is worth more than what is inside it; but if a drink is trendy, people want to drink it. We must address that problem and work towards minimising it.

The hon. Lady hit on an important point: branding. There has been an increase in branded products that can be sold only with further advertising and packaging to differentiate brands. It is difficult to address that. Do we tell consumers that when they go into a supermarket, instead of having 15 toothpastes to choose from, they will have only one? It is not clear whether consumers would accept that.

I shall give a few facts about the packaging manufacturing industry. It has sales of more than £10 billion and 85,000 employees. The primary role of packaging is to contain, protect and preserve products.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. He mentioned 85,000 employees in the industry. Can he tell the House how that figure has changed in recent years?

I would struggle to give precise figures, but the number has fallen over the years. Even my constituency has lost some 600 jobs in the glass industry in the past 12 months as packaging has been reduced, with lighter products. The industry is not expanding; it is contracting.

The amount of food in the UK supply chain that is lost between it growing in a field and appearing in a supermarket is less than 3 per cent., mainly because it is packaged and looked after from when it is grown or created to when it is sold. A problem in India is that 40 per cent. of the food produced there is lost as it goes from the fields of the agricultural sector to shops and markets. If India could solve that problem, some of its problems with food and poverty could be alleviated.

Just 3 per cent. of landfill is packaging waste, whereas 18 per cent. is household waste. The environmental impact of avoidable food waste in household waste is at least eight times greater than the impact of total packaging waste going to landfill. In other words, the food that we throw away and waste has a greater impact on landfill and our waste strategy than the packaging that it was in. The energy content of one day’s packaging throughout the country is equivalent to 1 mile driven in everyone’s car. Those are the comparisons. The industry has tried, and has largely succeeded, in minimising packaging waste’s impact on society.

A major reason for the development of packaging during the past few years is the change in our lifestyles. It is obvious that we shop differently from how we shopped in the 1950s and 1960s. We have more shops and more choice, and we want convenience shopping, and so on. There has been growth in supermarkets, which exist because people want convenience shopping. If we did not have convenience shopping, we would not have supermarkets and everyone would go to the corner shop daily, as we did in the 1950s, to buy fresh produce and cook it that day, and return to the shop the following day. We have more disposable income, we demand more convenience and we have more leisure time in which we can pursue leisure activities rather than do the shopping.

In the very late ’50s—if I can use that example without giving my age away—we did not have cars to make trips to supermarkets in order to fill them up with a bulk-buying shop to bring back home. We did not have telephones to ring up our orders to Pizza Hut to bring the pizza round on a Saturday night while watching the TV. We did not have central heating or as many TVs. We did not have washing machines, funnily enough, and if we consider the history of the way in which detergent has developed over the past 40 years and the amount that is now used in washing compared with 40 years ago, we see a dramatic difference—something like a 40 per cent. drop. We did not have fridges to such an extent, so we could not preserve food in a fridge, and we did not have freezers, so we could not freeze food. We could not buy frozen food; it was a thing of the future. We did not have computers or the internet, so we could not do our shopping online for Tesco to deliver it the following day.

Those are some of the things that we did not have, but which we now have, and they have led to our different lifestyles. The other big wonder that we did not have until fairly recently is the microwave oven. We wait for the two-minute ping and our meals are cooked and ready. If other hon. Members’ kids are anything like mine, they will know that they do not have to wait for the shout of, “Dinner’s ready!” My children just listen for the ping and that is it; it is the only way they know how to cook.

Other aspects of our lives have changed. In the old days, there were mainly two-parent households, divorce was rare, there were fewer working mothers, the pace of life was slower and people ate meals together around a table at a particular meal time. These days, however, we are all in front of the TV, eating at different times of day, and the household probably has one or two meals a week when its members are all together. All our habits have changed.

What about shopping habits? In the ’50s, shopping was a daily exercise, we had corner shops—there were no supermarkets—and articles were sold loose in brown paper bags. We also had home deliveries. Milk deliveries first thing in the morning are becoming a thing of the past; we buy at the supermarket two-litre containers that will last us several days. The range of food was limited in the ’50s, and we had far less choice in the food that we bought and ate. It is obvious that our lifestyles have changed dramatically.

There are other reasons for the way in which packaging operates these days. My first example is labelling. Sometimes, products that otherwise would not need to be packaged are required to carry nutritional information or warnings—the fact that a certain food might be dangerous if not cooked in a certain way. How do we put that information on a product if there is no label, box or packaging? Sometimes, a label is required simply to impart information to a customer.

Another reason is hygiene. We all demand hygienic food, we all want our food properly packaged, and we all want to ensure that by the time it arrives in our homes, it is not contaminated with something rather nasty. The worst source of food poisoning that the world knows is, I believe, E. coli 152—

My hon. Friend corrects me. The worst place in the world for E. coli 0157 is Scotland, which is surprising. Why should an area such as Scotland be the worst place in the world for E. coli 0157? We cannot be too careful about such matters, and packaging is required to maintain our levels of hygiene.

Another reason is preservation. Again, we come back to convenience: we want food to last longer. A few weeks ago in Parliament, there was a speech by a gentleman from Marks and Spencer, who brought a very good visual aid with him: two turnips, both bought on the same day in supermarkets. One had a coating of polythene cling film to protect it, the other did not. They were bought at the same time, and by the time he got them to Parliament, the first, uncovered turnip was going soft and pulpy, while the other had remained fresh and firm. It goes to show that within a few days, food can go off or deteriorate, and that something like a piece of cling film can preserve food dramatically.

A further reason to have packaging is security. Sometimes we need our food and products to be secure, so that we can prevent people from tampering with them, trying to poison us or committing crimes related to products, particularly food products. There have been cases over the years of companies being blackmailed with the threat to inject liquids and stuff into our food products. Another reason for packaging products is freshness, which we take for granted. Again, the example of the turnips is relevant.

We need to transport liquids, which need to have packaging and containers, so we need to design packaging to accommodate liquid products. Sometimes it is difficult to transport a product without having a package for it. A classic example of excess packaging is the toothpaste tube. Why does it come in a cardboard box? Because it is easier to stack and transport around the country. However, we can design newer, pump-action toothpaste tubes. Society moves on.

The hon. Gentleman mentions cardboard boxes. Perhaps I could mention Rigid Containers, a firm in Desborough in my constituency, which is 100 years old this year. It is a leading maker of boxes made of corrugated cardboard, which is one of the greenest materials around. Typically, a corrugated cardboard box comprises 76 per cent. to 100 per cent. recycled cardboard, and something like 84 per cent. of all corrugated boxes in this country are recycled. Packaging can be a green item—a subject that is often overlooked.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is absolutely right. I shall refer to another example of a recyclable material when I conclude my remarks, as I shall in a couple of minutes because I want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak. Many packaging materials are green, and there are misconceptions among the public about what can and cannot be recycled. We must tackle those misconceptions.

Packaging is sometimes necessary for compliance with certain rules and regulations about the transport of certain goods. Another reason why packing may be necessary is cross-contamination. If one had an allergy to a certain food, one would not want that food, unprotected, on the same counter or shelf as another food that one might want to purchase; one would want the food to which one is allergic to be protected and packaged.

Some products are excessively packaged. I have quoted the example of Easter eggs, and another classic example often cited is cling film wrapped around a coconut. However, it is used to stop fibres dropping off the coconut into other foods, getting into baby food, choking babies and so on. That is why we wrap up a coconut. There will always be a reason why products are packaged, but I admit that we can reduce packaging in some areas.

I shall turn to recycling. Last Wednesday was the 30th anniversary of the bottle bank. The first was situated in Barnsley, and later the same day, another was situated in Oxford. I pay tribute to my friends Stanley Race and Ron England, who were the two guys behind the initiative from Europe to increase recycling. Despite the presence of bottle banks, we still have contaminated glass collected for recycling. The problem with many recyclable materials is that the targets placed on local authorities relate simply to weight. They are simply required to collect a certain material by weight. It does not matter in what condition it arrives at the recycling facility. Provided the local authority meets its target for weight, its responsibility ends, but sadly, some materials are so contaminated and cross-contaminated, they simply cannot be used.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned paper and board. I shall use the example of glass, which is 100 per cent. recyclable. Glass can be melted time after time, and it constitutes back to the same product, yet if we mix clear or amber glass with green glass, we get green glass. In order to produce clear or amber glass, the reusable glass must be separated into its constituent colours. It cannot simply be mixed because once mixed, it turns into green glass. Given that in this country we import most of our wine, we are not short of green glass. The other thing that contaminates bottles going into bottle banks is the metal tops, which melt in the furnace and destroy the bottom, causing all manner of problems.

We need some joined-up thinking to ensure that local authorities have meaningful targets that allow them to collect and separate products for recycling, so that by the time they get to the recycler, he can reuse and recycle them. If we do not do that, people will complain bitterly—we have seen this in the Daily Mail—about having to have fortnightly bin collections, because they are required to separate for recycling. They are going through the exercise, albeit complainingly, yet when that stuff is collected it is unusable because it has been badly contaminated. We need to address that within the waste strategy and within our recycling targets.

I firmly believe that if we as a nation are given the appropriate receptacles for recycling, we will recycle much more. Although I understand that there has been great concern about fortnightly collections of household waste, such a system has existed in Northern Ireland for many years without any real problem. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that it is the change to how we conduct our daily household business that makes it difficult for people to adjust.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes a substantial point.

I am coming to end of my remarks, so to sum up I shall talk about what the packaging industry has done. It has developed new products and tried to limit the amount of packaging that we use. It has reduced food waste within the supply chain to 3 per cent., introduced lightweight packaging and decoupled growth in gross domestic product from the increase in packaging used. The industry has also given consumers product protection.

I will not bore hon. Members by reading out everything in the list of packaging types that I have—mainly because there are one or two things in it that I do not even understand—but it includes ovenable packaging, modified atmosphere packaging, frozen food packaging, microwaveable packaging, chilled food packaging, multiple packaging, shelf-ready packaging and something called aseptic packaging, although I am not entirely sure what that is. To answer the question asked earlier by my hon. Friend in 1990 there were 120,000 employees in the industry, whereas today there are 85,000.

In conclusion, the packaging manufacturing industry, as a service industry to supply chains, will respond to customers’ requirements. It will produce the packaging that they request with the maximum efficiency of resource, which it has done for decades. By protecting and preserving products and minimising waste, packaging continues to make a massive net contribution to resource efficiency and the minimisation of collateral environmental damage. The overall environmental impact of packaging is minuscule by comparison with the impacts of car use, home heating and even avoidable food waste. The industry would like proportionate attention to be paid to those much larger consumer-driven issues, instead of misdirected and sometimes ill-informed attacks on itself and its products through the constant reference to excess packaging.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on starting this important debate.

I declare a kind of interest, in that my father recently retired at the age of 80 from the packaging industry after a distinguished and representative career in the business. From adolescence onwards, I was given a barrage of talks on the virtues of packaging. However, despite that—or possibly because of it—I share most people’s annoyance at the amount of litter and waste that the packaging industry produces and their frustration at the occasional struggle in opening certain packages. I have found no way of getting at small electrical goods, packaged as they are, other than by attacking them vigorously with a pair of scissors, which is clearly not how they are intended to be opened. I have also shared from childhood the disappointment that all people have about the deceit of packaging, particularly at Easter time, when I unpack my egg and find that there is far less chocolate than I thought. I subscribe to the conventional wisdom that there is probably too much packaging, that much is unnecessary and that it ought to be recycled, if not made of recyclable materials.

I recognise much of what the hon. Gentleman said, too. I realise that we cannot return to the old days, when eggs came in a brown paper bag and frequently got broken, when milk was collected in jugs and when potatoes were tipped into shopping bags. Some of us can remember those days, which, to be frank, were not ideal. We also recognise that current packaging performs key tasks. It keeps food fresh and carries lots of information, such as bar codes and the traffic light information that is to come to tell us whether food will make us fat, thin or whatever. Packaging is also necessary to attract clients and identify products. We would be completely lost in a supermarket if there was not a variegated packaging environment—we simply would not know where to find the products that we sought. Packaging also prevents breakage in transit, which is another good thing.

I also accept, as the hon. Gentleman said, that there is not an automatic drive to over-package. There cannot be one, because every additional bit of packaging obviously costs somebody something. The public prefer to buy things that are produced in attractive packages and they want things from far afield, which requires an element of packaging so that they can be delivered safely and securely.

I suppose that I am symptomatic of the general dilemma in which most of the public find themselves with regard to packaging. We all agree forcefully with the general claim that there should be less packaging, but we are less clear about which items—Easter eggs and perfume aside—should be unpackaged. Chris Davies, a north-west MEP and political acquaintance of mine, has an obsession with cucumbers and whether they should have cling film around them. I do not know the case for or against, but I have an inkling of what it might be, judging from the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. We are confronted with a clear conceptual distinction between necessary and unnecessary packaging, but, in practice, not everyone clarifies it in the same way.

One can therefore understand some of the packaging industry’s grievances. It will claim quite legitimately that it is a major manufacturer—indeed it is—because it contributes to the economy. It will claim quite accurately that it is not responsible for the antisocial disposal of packaging because that is what people do, not what packaging does. The industry also has perfectly valid gripes about how the press treats it.

That said, we should all recognise that disposal is an issue for the industry as well as the community. Disposal contributes to landfill and litter and represents a relatively wasteful use of resources. The solution is to make products’ packaging more reusable and recyclable, and smaller in terms of bulk and volume. Various bits of quite laudable legislation have that as an objective, although it is not necessarily their effect. There is a debate about the plastic bag tax, which would have beneficial effects, such as reducing the demand for plastic bags, but might increase the demand for paper packaging. Paper packaging is heavier, and as it is made from a biodegradable product, it can produce greenhouse gases when in landfill, unlike plastic, which is chemically inert.

I have a figure somewhere showing that given the amount of moisture in cucumbers, they can in fact benefit from being packaged. On the hon. Gentleman’s point about plastic bags, which I know a little bit about, when the tax on plastic carrier bags was imposed in Ireland, the demand for other types of plastic bag increased. The plastic manufacturers therefore produced more product, but not in the form of carrier bags. Instead, they produced black bin liners, which people used as a way of circumventing the loss of carrier bags

The hon. Gentleman reinforces my point. For the moment, I shall have to remain agnostic on the cucumber issue, about which I am genuinely uncertain. Other Members might be able to enlighten me.

Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge the initiative of the British Retail Consortium to cut the environmental impact of plastic bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008, which is only 18 months away? We have a long way to go on the issue, but that is a jolly good start on which we can build. The industry is addressing the situation. Our constituents choose to use plastic bags. That is a lifestyle choice now, so let us make sure that plastic bags are used and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

The hon. Gentleman is right. One of the gripes about plastic bags is precisely that they are chemically inert and therefore remain around for a very long time. I remember going to a presentation by the packaging industry a few weeks after I had been on holiday in Anglesey, when I had seen various plastic products in some remote and beautiful parts of the island. I assumed that a refuse collector would not come by soon and that those products might well be there for decades. While there can be certain advantages and pluses, that example shows that environmental objectives can at times be confused and that there can be conflicts among them.

The question is about whether we want less biodegradable packaging, less packaging that contributes to the waste stream—plastic contributes very little to that—or less packaging that contributes to the production of CO2 and greenhouse gases. One could argue that the whole contribution of packaging to global warming is relatively small. Packaging, particularly paper packaging, requires forests to be maintained, and presumably they are beneficial. I suppose that one could argue that plastic reduces biodegradable waste, although of course all packaging lengthens food miles because it enables products that otherwise would not get to us at all to reach us in a stable condition.

Arguably, the contribution of packaging to the waste stream has to be evaluated objectively. I do not know the figures—someone might enlighten me—but that contribution might stand comparison, as the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central suggested, with the amount of waste generated by people throwing out newspapers, brochures and advertising materials. This week, hon. Members could reflect on how much of what they bin would be called packaging and how much would be called newsprint, brochures or whatever.

However, there are genuinely desirable environmental objectives to be achieved, and that will not happen through a free market and expecting things simply to sort themselves out. The industry will have no particular motive to use recyclable materials unless that is provided externally and retailers will have no motive to avoid over-packaging if it pays. Although from time to time consumers will revolt and try to hand their packaging back to Sainsbury’s, Tesco or wherever, the vast bulk of us simply put up with the packaging and throw it out.

I do not think that environmental objectives will be secured by bouts of environmental virtue, either from us as individuals, or from various corporate enterprises. At the moment, retailers have a number of desirable initiatives on the go, but I wonder whether they will be sustained if certain environmental objectives become less fashionable. I favour—like most in the Chamber, I think—the model of a European directive coupled with a bit of national tuning and implementation. That model is not too bad, given the lack of availability of others. The presence of a stick being brandished prompts a plethora of voluntary agreements in the retail and producer sectors. However, I am sure that the Minister will agree that to be really successful, we require a mature dialogue with the industry and a recognition that the growth in packaging is locked into other sorts of social changes about which we are more comfortable, such as diversity of supply, prevention of theft and improved food hygiene. We will not row back from such things. Given such mature dialogue, there is no reason to believe that regulation cannot lead to environmentally sustainable packaging, just as it has led to safer packaging. I hope that the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central has succeeded in making a substantial contribution to that mature dialogue.

Order. I advise the three remaining speakers to keep their comments brief as I wish to call the Front-Bench spokespeople at half-past 10.

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), who spoke wisely—I agreed with much of what he said—and it is a particular pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley). He has championed the packaging industry extremely well in the House for a number of years. He made several excellent points, but we need a little more focus on, and understanding of, one issue: the contribution that packaging makes to climate change, which was also raised by the hon. Member for Southport.

Does packaging accelerate climate change, or can intelligent packaging make a contribution towards reducing the carbon footprint and helping to control climate change? I believe that it can; intelligent packaging design keeps food and other products in good condition and delivers them in a safe condition, thus reducing the wastage of food and the need to produce it, fertilise it when it is growing, transport it to the user and dispose of what the user wastes.

I should say briefly to the hon. Gentleman that the global carbon footprint of packaging, including its disposal, is 0.2 per cent. of the total.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but if the figure were minus 0.2 per cent.—if good packaging actually reduced the carbon footprint—that would be excellent. I think that it can achieve that, as the industry grows more mature and design gets more intelligent. The hon. Gentleman told us that about 40 per cent. of food in India is wasted, yet in this country, only a few per cent. is.

According to the figures that I have read, we throw away 30 per cent. of the food that we buy. Does that not make the hon. Gentleman wonder about the effect of packaging? If we did not package food, would we have a more immediate sense of which food was about to go off and thus perhaps not need as much food as we buy at the moment?

The hon. Lady makes an interesting point, and clearly we need a lot more research on, and understanding of, the issue. However, she is going further down the supply chain than the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central and I. In some countries, up to half the food is wasted between production and the point of sale; in this country the percentage is very small because we have sensible packaging practices that get better by the day. Good packaging can also promote and enable good recycling practices, which are essential. All that can help to reduce the carbon footprint and the energy required to deliver food through the supply chain to our houses.

I want to make one further point, which has not been raised—perhaps it is slightly out of order, but I hope not. In a marketing sense, suppliers promote their goods phenomenally well in this country. However, they forget the customer after they have sold them—they leave us high and dry. Partially sighted or elderly people, such as me and the hon. Gentleman, who remember the late 50s, cannot read instructions on what to do with the products when we get them home. That is absolutely atrocious for someone who is living alone and cooking for himself. The problem is serious, so we need to ensure that instructions on packaging are delivered in a way that is friendly to elderly people and the partially sighted. The hon. Gentleman made all the points that I would have liked to make and put forward his case extremely well, so I shall sit down and let others speak.

I welcome the debate and hope that it will be one of a series of many on the issue. We need to have such debates. I appreciate the desire of the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) to introduce balance, and I hope that I will be able to do that.

The packaging manufacturing industry is an important part of the UK manufacturing industry. In my constituency, SCA Packaging provides 150 jobs and clearly makes a big contribution to the local economy. I accept that many parts of the industry are making great progress towards reducing packaging. As has been mentioned, it is in no manufacturer’s economic interest to make packaging with more materials than they need.

I caution against the view that the issue is not important because packaging makes up only 3 per cent. of landfill, which might be less than the food waste that we throw away. It is still an important problem, and I draw hon. Members’ attention to early-day motion 814, which is tabled in my name and has now been signed by 168 Members. There is clearly a feeling that the problem needs to be addressed.

Consumers at least have some choice about whether to waste food and throw it in the bin, and about whether to buy enough food or whether it will go to waste. The problem with some of the packaging that our products come in today is that consumers are frustrated that they do not necessarily have a choice. They end up with packaging that they do not need, and in many cases they cannot even recycle it.

That has been a particular issue in areas that have moved to fortnightly collections of landfill waste, which has happened up and down the country and in my area. At that point, consumers started to worry about what was going into their bins. That was when people started to complain to me. They could see what they could put in their recycling bins and they were frustrated that a lot of the things that they bought in the supermarket were bulking up the things that they could put in their landfill bin, which had to last for two weeks rather than one. That was one factor that heightened the salience of the issue in the minds of our constituents, who had to deal with that impact.

Of course, it makes good economic sense to minimise packaging. A huge amount of progress has been made by manufacturers, particularly on making products more lightweight. Part of the problem lies not necessarily with the manufacturers of the packaging, but with the brands and the producers of the products, who let the marketing men and women and advertisers into the decisions about how things are packaged. I speak as a former marketing manager, although as I marketed a radio station there thankfully was not such an issue about packaging. That is one of the major problems.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned toothpaste; we would not want just to have one brand of toothpaste, and packaging is obviously one way in which brands can differentiate themselves on the supermarket shelves. That is true, but as someone who used to work in marketing I might suggest that the way in which brands might want to differentiate themselves would be through the strength and quality of the product, rather than what it came in. We have had the examples of perfume bottles and so on, which add a huge amount of apparent value to a product. However, I would have thought that the consumer would be interested in whether the product works.

I hate to play devil’s advocate, but the possible counter-argument would be to say that packaging allows manufacturers to state the merits of their product on the packaging rather than inviting customers to try each one individually.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I do not argue for a second that we should have no packaging and should go back to taking products in one big bag without any protective coatings or boxes. However, I recall the days when one could take back to the Body Shop the bottle that formerly held a favourite body lotion or shampoo and get it refilled. It is a shame that that seems to have gone by the bye, because although we try to recycle, we need to remember the waste hierarchy—reusing is the best thing that we can do with packaging.

Work still has to be done on marketing. I suggest that the Government play some role, because if products benefit by being in bigger and apparently better packages than those around them there will be an economic incentive to have more packaging. If a level playing field is created through Government regulation—optimal packaging requirements are being considered as part of the waste strategy—companies can act in an environmentally responsible way and will not be penalised by the fact that their competitors would be less likely to do so.

Consumers want minimal and green packaging. A recent survey by the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment—INCPEN—said that 66 per cent. of people thought that, overall, products are overpackaged, with too many layers of packaging, or packaging that is too large for the goods inside. In April, the Institute of Grocery Distribution found that 19 per cent. of shoppers said that they specifically purchased products with recyclable packaging. That is starting to be a driver through the marketplace, and it will obviously grow.

Let me pick up on a point made by the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). The packaging industry should see this as an opportunity, and if the Government can provide support through research and development to enable companies to innovate, there is no reason why it should not be seen as good for the industry to become a market leader for the rest of the world in new, innovative ideas for environmentally friendly, minimal packaging, which will obviously provide economic opportunities. The packaging industry should embrace that idea, and parts of it are doing so, but we need to ensure that the Government support is there. Although it might always be economically sensible to produce minimal packaging, the risk involved in innovating new, environmentally friendly packaging means that there might not be an economic case up front. Something might need to be developed and researched first, so that support would be needed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) made a point about waste and shrink-wrapped cucumbers and turnips—my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) raised it as well—and whether that is better. I am unsure whether I am agnostic on the issue, and I have no definitive answer. However, although packaging such goods can prolong their shelf life, pre-packaged goods can mean that we buy more of something than we need, which is why 30 per cent. of the food that we buy is thrown away. It is hard to justify such a huge waste of resources. There are two sides to the argument, and I shall leave hon. Members to their thoughts on that matter.

I mentioned SCA Packaging, which employs 150 people in my constituency. It manufactures corrugated cardboard packaging, primarily for the whisky industry—whisky is obviously one of Scotland’s great exports. That company is a good example of how companies can work in an environmentally friendly way, as 75 per cent. of its cardboard is made from recycled material, and 100 per cent. of its internal card waste is recycled, as it has an onsite paper mill to recycle it.

The cardboard industry is starting to get things right, as 84 per cent. of the corrugated board used was recycled in 2005. In order to raise that figure, we need consumers to recycle cardboard more. Although the industry can be good at recycling the packaging that is used in transit, which is the majority of packaging—the stuff that the consumers see is a small amount—it is harder to get consumer recycling done, because we are talking about smaller quantities in individual homes. It is obviously important for consumers and for us that we get the rates even higher.

It is slightly depressing that in England and Wales only a third of local authorities, or 125 out of 374, collect cardboard on the doorstep, while in Scotland things are a little better, because 37 per cent. of councils, or 12 out of 32, do so. That means that there are huge parts of the country where consumers are not easily able to recycle cardboard, which, given its bulk, is not handy to take down to recycling banks, even if they are provided. I can say from personal experience that cardboard recycling on the doorsteps of East Dunbartonshire, which was introduced more than a year ago, made a huge difference to what ended up going in the black landfill bin. Cardboard was taken out of the waste stream. We really ought to put pressure on local authorities and make it easier for them to recycle more cardboard.

The Government have brought forward some interesting developments in the waste strategy published recently and in trying to enforce properly the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003. I am intrigued that they are talking about having more effective enforcement action, but there is not yet a lot of detail about what that will actually mean. One problem is that it is up to trading standards officers to prosecute and enforce the regulations, and they are over-stretched. As we all know, there have been very few prosecutions. It might be time to consider having a national body, such as used to exist, to consider the issue of packaging and make prosecutions when companies flout the regulations.

The debate has been welcome and I hope that it is the first of many. Many parts of the industry are making great progress towards reducing packaging, but there is much more to do and the Government must take a lead in further reducing packaging waste, with tough targets and effective enforcement. Green, minimal packaging makes good economic sense, and it makes sense for manufacturers, consumers and the environment.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on securing the debate and leading it off so ably. It provides a welcome opportunity to rebalance the national debate about packaging, and I congratulate all those who have contributed on their wise words.

I wish to follow the comments of the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) on my favourite subject this morning, corrugated cardboard. There are a number of packaging firms in my constituency, and I am delighted to be a member of the all-party group on the packaging manufacturing industry, so ably led by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central. Those firms include Rigid Containers and DS Smith, which has a company called Abbey Board based in Burton Latimer. There are others as well.

The figures given by the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire on the proportion of corrugated cardboard that is recycled were absolutely spot-on. An interesting statistic is that as a result of that recycling rate, an area of corrugated cardboard the size of Greater London avoids going to landfill every four months. That is the scale of the recycling contribution made by this wonderful product. If we stop and think about corrugated cardboard for a while, we find that it is wonderful. From cardboard can be made rigid containers that protect their contents, and when the box is no longer required it can be recycled. There cannot really be a greener and more environmentally friendly product than corrugated cardboard.

DS Smith, which has a firm called Abbey Board in Burton Latimer, specialises in clay-coated, pre-print, barrier and performance liners on both single and double-faced corrugated materials. I looked up its environmental statement this morning, and it is extremely impressive on its corporate social responsibility. As a firm it uses waste or recycled material in any given process whenever it can, and it makes environmental performance an integral part of its business. It also seeks to minimise the use of energy and natural resources in its manufacturing process and always tries to ensure that packaging products are designed to minimise total waste and the use of energy throughout the supply chain.

Rigid Containers, which is based in Desborough, is 100 years old this year. It was founded by a war hero, Colonel Howard Burditt, in 1907, and stems from Northamptonshire’s history as a shoe manufacturing location, because shoes go into boxes. Colonel Burditt developed the process of corrugated cardboard, and 100 years later, I am pleased to report, unlike some other parts of the packaging industry, Rigid Containers is doing extremely well. In 2005 the third phase of its recent investment programme was completed with the opening of a warehouse and logistics facility at Desborough, which added storage capacity of 8,000 pallets to its existing 6,000-pallet capacity.

It is easy to bash the packaging industry, but in corrugated cardboard there is an extremely green product that does what it says on the tin, if you like. It is a rigid container that protects the contents of a box, and hundreds of people are employed in my constituency in making that environmentally friendly packaging. I welcome the opportunity presented by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central, to highlight the good that the packaging industry does.

I wish to echo the words of the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire about the recycling of cardboard by local residents. In Kettering borough, which has one of the best household recycling rates in the whole country—it has increased from 4 per cent. in 2003 to 46 per cent. and climbing today—cardboard goes in the green bin and is therefore sent off for composting. A point that the packaging industry would like to make is that it would be far better if the Government, through their guidance and funding mechanisms, could encourage local authorities to collect cardboard separately rather than include it in composting. Recycling cardboard to make new cardboard is the most environmentally friendly thing to do. If cardboard is added to general green waste and composted, fibres are lost to the cardboard industry. It would be worth the Minister’s addressing that point in her conversations with her colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I add my congratulations to those of other hon. Members to the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley), on highlighting this important subject and trying to redress the balance. Some of the press that we see, as he said, almost implies that members of the packaging industry act against the interests of people in our society.

The manufacturing industry is an industry just like any other, and should not be demonised. Its job, like that of any other industry, is to respond to market demands. The job of manufacturers and food producers is to sell their products and maximise profit, and packaging is an important aspect in making a product attractive to the consumer, but it does need effective regulation. Will the Minister address some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003? Loopholes in the regulations allow excess waste if there is, as the guidance notes state, “consumer acceptance”, or if it is needed to provide identification or stimulate purchase. I am struggling to think of any other reason why companies would want to produce packaging, except to hold the contents being sold.

The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central, talked about the reduction in packaging. The natural concomitant of that is that jobs are reduced—it is a simple equation. On the other hand, we as consumers each spend £470 a year on packaging, and Britain has been described as the “dustbin of Europe”. There is a trading scheme called the landfill allowance trading scheme, and I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on some of the loopholes in it. Under the scheme, private sector trade waste can be separately collected by private subcontractors and therefore go off the books. In many areas, the Government have a responsibility to ensure that there is proper regulation and proper measurement of exactly how much waste is going to landfill.

We want packaging to be recycled, and we have a target of 40 per cent. by 2010 and 50 per cent. by 2020. Compared with some of our European neighbours, that is pathetic. Germany already achieves 58 per cent., and the Netherlands already achieves 65 per cent. We must raise our sights considerably to ensure that the packaging that we produce has a recyclable element to it.

Recycling could be regarded as an admission of failure, in that we have acquired more material than we actually need. My hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) referred to the halcyon days of the Body Shop, when one could get the little pots refilled. The optimum strategy for dealing with packaging must be refilling and reusing whenever possible.

Consumer demand drives the industry, and it is encouraging just how much of a move there has been recently in consumer attitudes towards packaging. In my constituency, three little recycling bins to which people could bring their plastic for recycling were introduced for the whole borough. By the end of the first weekend, those little plastic recycling bins were completely covered in plastic materials—people were so keen to do plastic recycling. To its credit, the Conservative-run council has responded by ensuring that we now have sufficient capacity in the three areas, but the provision is a far cry from the sort of recycling service that is offered by more progressive councils.

Supermarket bags have been mentioned. I was interested and amused to read recently about Sainsbury’s Anya Hindmarch bags, which were made of cotton. People were queuing from 2 am to acquire those hugely desirable objects. That just shows that public perceptions and attitudes can shape the manufacturing and packaging industries’ response to demand.

The British Retail Consortium has agreed to a target of up to 25 per cent. for reducing the use of plastic bags, but this country really should be working towards the end of single-use bags. That is contrary to what several hon. Members said this morning, but I see no reason why re-education could not end the need to produce a one-use piece of plastic for taking consumables home.

I am listening to what the hon. Lady is saying, but there is an argument that plastic carrier bags are used several times. People will use them when they go to the supermarket; then they may use them again to go to the supermarket; they may use them for taking gym kit to the gym; and then the bags end up as makeshift bin liners in pedal bins. There is an argument that plastic bags are reused.

I am grateful for the intervention and I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but the vast majority of people will reuse only a small proportion of the bags. If people take home brand-new bags every time they go to the supermarket, the vast majority of the bags will not be reused. Several supermarket initiatives involve charging a small amount for good-quality plastic bags that can be exchanged once their useful life is over. That has proved extremely popular with consumers, and with a little more education we could move in that direction.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) made an interesting contribution to the debate on the disposal of packaging. His ten-minute Bill was about supermarkets taking back packaging from consumers. He said that responsibility for receiving the packaging should rest with the supermarket. That would certainly direct minds down the supply chain to think about the type and amount of packaging that would be used by the supermarkets.

I should be fair to the supermarkets. They are responding to the challenge of consumer demands to reduce packaging, although one could certainly argue that they could go a great deal further.

Finally, I would like to discuss opportunities for the packaging industry. Every change in consumer demand presents an opportunity to the industry. I would like to mention Re:tie fasteners, the eco-clips that are an award-winning British invention. They could replace conventional closures on many plastic bottles and jars, and they are a fantastic example of British ingenuity in responding to a problem or demand.

Then there is the concept of de-manufacturing, which is breaking down a piece of plastic, or whatever, into its component parts. Esterform Packaging Ltd is a successful, growing company that produces environment-friendly packaging. The hon. Members for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) and for Castle Point (Bob Spink) spoke about the environmental friendliness of simple packaging products such as corrugated cardboard. Many of the solutions that we need are on our doorsteps, literally. If we were able effectively to recycle and reuse them, that clearly would make a big contribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire spoke about Government sponsorship for research. When drawing up our science budget, we must consider carefully how we can respond to ecological and customer demands, and how we can maximise our ability to design innovative responses to the requirements. This country is good at innovation. The packaging industry has many challenges, but I am sure that it is up to it.

I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on bringing this major issue to our attention, and on securing an opportunity for us to debate it. He spoke with great passion and, indeed, expertise on the subject. We have yet to hear from the Minister, but I hope that he will agree that there is a good deal of cross-party consensus on the way forward.

The hon. Gentleman takes a measured view. He said that we must have a balanced approach. The world, Britain, our communities and individuals are becoming ever more conscious of environment, climate change and recycling issues, so it is only appropriate that we focus on what packaging can achieve in meeting our objectives. The hon. Gentleman placed in perspective what is, perhaps, the lowest common denominator that we should bear in mind. Packaging is of paramount importance in dealing with problems such as the E. coli scare in Scotland and other places in the world. That must be the benchmark from which we move forward. We need a safe and secure means of transporting our products, and at the same time, we need to be able to market them.

The hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) talked about excessive packaging and I agree with the points he made. I recently purchased a spirit level from B&Q and it took some time to get into the packaging. I eventually tore it apart with such vigour that I ended up breaking the spirit level because there was something at the back that I was unaware of.

My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) mentioned intelligent packaging and I endorse his sentiments. There are clever ways in which we can reduce the amount of bulky packaging that we see now, and I hope that the industry will listen to ideas about how goods can be better packaged not only for transport to the market, but for display.

The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) spoke about landfill. It was interesting to hear that the carbon footprint from packaging is declining, which places the issue in perspective. However, we must be conscious of what we are doing to our environment. Last year, the National Audit Office concluded that the

“Reductions in the proportion of biodegradable waste sent to the landfill have, however, been offset by growth in the amount of waste produced.”

We, as households, are producing more waste and packaging is part of that.

Packaging is an essential part of modern life and I do not wish to demonise the industry in any way. It plays a valuable part in the economy, employing 850,000 people. Clearly, packaging not only protects goods, but maintains the condition of foodstuffs for much longer. As the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central said in his opening remarks, as consumers, our demands have changed during the past 50 years and we now ask for more convenience. However, examples of excessive packaging have been mentioned today, including oranges in plastic boxes, courgettes in plastic trays, and shrink-wrapped coconuts. The hon. Gentleman referred to abuses where financial gain is made through packaging—for example, six pieces of fruit in a polystyrene tray being sold for more than if someone plucked the individual pieces off the shelf. That should not be happening and it is appropriate that we highlight our concerns about that.

Some stores are heading in the right direction and we support the use of recycled bags, bag-for-life schemes, packaging take-back initiatives and biodegradable packaging. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) is clearly an expert on corrugated boxes and I was pleased that he added his thoughts to the debate; we can learn an awful lot from him. By using more corrugated boxes that can be recycled we can link the emphasis on recycling with the issue of packaging.

However, we need to go further. Concerns were raised about using the bag-for-life for bottles and other items that need to be packaged. We should change the bag-for-life so that it is compartmentalised and has different places to put different products. In that way it would itself become a package to protect goods. Those are the types of initiatives that we need to encourage as we move the debate forward. Education, not regulation, is important. I would hate to see the industry forced to go down a particular road. I would prefer it to engage in the issue and consider where the market wants to go. Consumers are certainly becoming more aware of the matter and are demanding less and better packaging.

To place the issue in context, we create about 4.6 million tonnes of packaging waste every year, which equates to 6,000 London buses. I am not sure if that figure relates to the old Routemaster or to the bendy bus, but either way that is a significant amount and a significant hole in the ground is required to accommodate it. The hon. Gentleman said that the carbon footprint of packaging may be small, but the hole in the ground needed to dispose of packaging is large, which must be of concern to all of us. To put the issue in perspective, for every £50 spent on food, an additional £8 is spent on packaging, so the average family is spending about £470 a year purely on packaging. It does not end there because people must then get rid of packaging and pay the council to come and take their waste away. That means that people are paying a second time for disposal of the packaging once it has been used.

In conclusion, the public are becoming attuned to the impact that we all have on the environment. The packaging industry must be challenged to play its role and introduce less bulky, more biodegradable, more recyclable and more reusable types of packaging. I hope that the industry will heed those views to avoid the necessity for any new regulation.

I am delighted, Mrs. Humble, to speak in a debate that you are chairing. I welcome the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and congratulate him on his speech—it is the first time that I have sat opposite him when he has spoken from the Front Bench.

Most importantly, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) on securing the debate. I have worked with him before on the issue of packaging and I know that he puts a lot of effort into supporting the packaging industry by raising issues of concern in the House. I am delighted that he has had the opportunity to put on the record a properly balanced debate. Given the image of the industry, as demonstrated by the latest campaign by The Independent, I would be interested to know whether those who have tabled the early-day motion supported the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. In initiating the debate, he has succeeded in getting the balance right between promoting an important industry, which has a crucial role to play in our economy, and ensuring that the industry moves with the times and deals with questions such as whether packaging is excessive and what is essential packaging.

A number of hon. Members made good points about how packaging can help sustainability. For example, food loss is minimised, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink). We know that the industry is attempting to minimise the impact of packaging on the environment, and I will come back to that point. Much very good innovative work has been done throughout the industry and in collaboration with higher education institutions. The industry has also taken advantage of resources that the Government have set aside for innovation and research. As a number of hon. Members have said, we need to do more of that.

I listened with interest to the comments on packaging and marketing. At best it is a bit naïve to assume that, in our consumerist society, we can reduce the importance of packaging as a marketing tool, whether for Easter eggs or any other product. As we become increasingly wealthier, we become what some people describe as apex consumers and we seek to discriminate between products that are the same. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that packaging is a key part of marketing.

Does the Minister not think that the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 were an attempt to do exactly that: reduce the excessive packaging that might be introduced through branding and the use of packaging in extreme ways as a marketing tool? The regulations mean that packaging has to be reduced to the essentials of protecting products and ensuring that they reach their destination in a safe and hygienic condition.

It depends on how one defines those terms. No doubt if the hon. Lady has examples of what she believes is excessive packaging, she will refer those to trading standards officers. However, one can take a whole range of examples. In my early life, I worked for Unilever. All washing powders are basically the same and the only way to differentiate them is through the packaging and marketing.

It is dependent on the competition and, of course, neither Unilever nor P&G would say that. However, it is naïve to speak in a debate in the House and pretend that packaging does not have a key role to play in the marketing of products—particularly because we, as consumers, want that choice. If the hon. Lady thinks that she can influence consumers into not wanting a selection on their shelves or in their shops, I wish her luck, but I do not think that she will get very far.

Packaging materials can be green, however, as a number of hon. Members have said. I think that recycling is very important, and I take the point made by my hon. Friend about the need for green bottles to be separated from clear bottles so that they can be recycled. I shall take that point away and discuss it further with my colleagues in DEFRA and the Corporate Responsibility Group. I shall take away also the point about cardboard and discuss it with colleagues in other Departments to see if we can be more sophisticated in the way in which we discriminate between objects that we recycle in order to support re-use, rather than simply recycling materials.

The hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh) raised a number of issues and talked about mature dialogue, as well as regulation, to ensure environmental sustainability. I think that he admitted that it is difficult to decide what should be packaged. I expect that we all have personal experience of poor and excessive packaging. The hon. Member for Castle Point made a very good point about packaging reflecting the needs of disadvantaged groups in society—for example, those with disabilities or the elderly. We all have endless examples of appalling packaging that, for example, someone with arthritic hands could not open, or where the typeface of the written directions or information on the contents is so small that even a younger person could not decipher it—but perhaps that is part of the reason why it is so small.

The hon. Lady took a very different approach to the debate. Her main emphasis was on the need to reduce packaging as much as possible. I agree with her about green packaging and the need to minimise packaging. Innovation is vital, and the Government have a role in setting targets for reducing waste, which I believe that we are doing effectively. We have made good progress. However, we need partnerships between all, rather than regulation. The industry needs to work with consumers and other stakeholders to make the changes that we want.

In the last few minutes left to us, I shall make some general points. Packaging is part of everyday life, as my hon. Friend demonstrated well, and it feeds into a massive range of supply chains. I have responsibilities for the whole of the manufacturing industry and a range of other sectors. Packaging probably impacts on most of the sectors that are part of our everyday life. The packaging industry is a sophisticated and highly competitive sector and is adapting effectively to changing consumer demands and fashions, and now to the challenges that we face to sustain our environment.

The packaging industry also has to ensure that it can survive in the increasingly globalised market in which we now operate. I often use three statistics on China in this context. China now produces nearly 70 per cent.—two thirds—of all mobile telephones; it produces half of all our televisions; and last Christmas it produced three out of every four toys bought for children. Our packaging industry must ensure its future in that context. The industry employs 85,000 people and accounts for 1 per cent. of GDP, I believe—my hon. Friend will know.

The industry therefore makes an important contribution.

Given the statistics, globalisation could be seen as a threat, but it is an opportunity as well, providing new markets in which we can compete. The real challenge for us, which is reflected in our manufacturing strategy, is to provide the conditions in which the packaging industry can modernise, be appropriate in the modern context, continue to grow, and provide added value to the economy and jobs for British people. The packaging industry has faced other challenges owing to the high energy costs of the last few years and of raw materials—those two factors have not been brought up in the debate today—but despite that there has been growth, which is to be welcomed.

Why has that happened? One of the strengths of the packaging industry in the UK is design, which has been talked about by a lot of people. It is crucial that we keep innovating in order to reduce quantities of packaging and to maintain the industry and ensure that its products become more sustainable and re-usable. The incentives that the Government have put in place to support the industry deal largely with innovation. They include tax credits, which are, I hope, increasingly supporting the packaging industry; the science and research budget, which has almost trebled; and the technology programme, under which we have invested £370 million over the last four years to enable manufacturers to capitalise on emerging technologies and to turn ideas into products. For example, in the £40 million spring competition, which we are in the middle of, £15 million was allocated specifically to the development of lightweight materials and structures. We hope that some of those resources will go into packaging to enable further innovation.

We work also through the manufacturing advisory service to ensure that the packaging industry remains competitive. MAS has worked with and helped more than 30 packaging companies such as Amcor, Chevler and Rosewood to increase turnover by £300 million. In 1997, we set up the Faraday packaging partnership, which has now been subsumed into the materials knowledge transfer network launched by Lord Sainsbury in 2006. That partnership provides an interface between packaging producers, users and academic research. Again, about 35 successful, relevant products have come out of that.

I shall say a little bit about what we are doing through the waste and resources action programme, which is important in funding good new products to ensure the long-term sustainability and liability of the packaging industry. There have been trials of lightweight glass bottles and jars and lightweight easy-open steel food cans, which Heinz and Impress Group BV have used. It has developed a packaging minimisation standard for organic products, which has included partners such as Green and Black’s and Duchy Originals, as well as a new benchmark for lightweight PET drinks bottles. We have also held trials of re-usable packaging systems for companies such as Argos. Good things are going on within the packaging industry that we can help to ensure continued sustainability.

Finally, we value the contribution that the packaging industry makes to the UK economy and to reducing packaging waste, and the importance that it attaches to research into development and innovation, which is the means by which we can turn global change from a threat into an opportunity. The packaging industry has always embraced innovation and has long been aware that sustainable success comes through innovation, added value and being close to the supply chain.