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Packaging: Supermarkets

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to encourage (a) supermarket shoppers to re-use plastic bags and (b) supermarkets to use less packaging; and if he will introduce schemes encouraging supermarkets to provide fewer plastic bags to shoppers. (202719)

The Government pledged in the “Waste Strategy for England 2007” to phase out free single-use carrier bags.

The UK retail sector set itself a shared objective with the Government and the Waste and Resources Action programme (WRAP) to reduce the environmental impact of carrier bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.

The Prime Minister announced on 19 November 2007 that we needed to go further—to eliminate single-use carrier bags altogether in favour of long-lasting and more sustainable alternatives. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget on 12 March that we will introduce legislation to impose a charge on single-use carrier bags in 2009 if we have not seen sufficient progress on a voluntary basis.

The management of packaging and packaging waste is covered by two sets of regulations in the UK: the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 and the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended). The aim of both sets of regulations is to minimise the amount of packaging used in the first place, and therefore reduce packaging waste. An additional objective of the regulations is to encourage reuse of packaging and increase the recovery and recycling of packaging waste.

My Department continues to encourage supermarkets to take greater responsibility for the waste they place on the market and to encourage producers to reduce their waste. Apart from the two sets of packaging regulations described above, WRAP is currently working with retailers through the ‘Courtauld Commitment’, a voluntary agreement which aimed to halt packaging growth by March this year and make absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010.