Food-related packaging makes up an estimated 18-20 per cent. of household waste and around 3.3 per cent. of the controlled waste which is sent to landfill1. No estimate is currently available of the proportion of food packaging waste landfilled or recycled specifically relating to sales of fresh produce.
However, the Packaging Regulations, which place requirements on obligated businesses to recover and recycle a certain amount of the packaging waste they handle, have so far helped to raise the UK packaging recycling rate from around 27 per cent. in 1997 to around 56 per cent. in 2006. In real terms, the total amount of packaging waste recovered or recycled has increased from 3.3 million tonnes in 1998 to around 6.3 million tonnes in 2006.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme is currently working with all leading supermarkets through the Courtauld Commitment to achieve a standstill, and then a reduction, in the amount of packaging waste. A number of retailers are considering the role that the selling of loose fruit and vegetables could make to those objectives, without increasing the amount of damaged produce which is then discarded.
1 Figures are based on estimates of waste composition contained in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit 2002 report, “Waste Not Want Not”, and information from WasteDataFlow for 2005-06.