ARCHIVE: Packaging and the waste strategy
A key message of the new strategy is that retailers need to do more to reduce packaging, building on existing progress. In addition to proposals for higher statutory packaging waste recycling targets under the existing Regulations, the Government is seeking further action on packaging minimisation.
Why the need to take further action on excess packaging?
Since the introduction of the packaging Regulations, and their recovery and recycling targets, there has been a significant increase in the level of packaging waste recovery, some 20 percentage points since 1999. In 2006, the recycling rate for packaging waste stood at 56% (with overall recovery at 61%). Good progress has been made on recycling, therefore, but more needs to be done on minimisation of packaging in particular.
Development of optimal packaging standards
The Government will, in consultation with the industry, look to amend the producer responsibility regulations to achieve packaging minimisation while keeping in mind businesses’ commercial objectives. This would look to get producers to select packaging that is the optimal weight, where there are alternatives. We intend to build on WRAP’s development of ‘best in class’ containers so that, for example, producers would be expected to use the lightest weight packaging where such an option exists. WRAP’s research has shown that there can be large differences between the amounts of packaging on similar products.
Proposals for higher recycling targets beyond 2008
The European Union has set minimum recovery and recycling (including material-specific recycling) targets up to 2008. The Packaging Directive targets of 60% recovery and 55% recycling of packaging waste in 2008 are expected to be achieved but even if they are, there is still a significant amount of packaging waste that is not being recycled – nearly 5 million tonnes.
The Government will therefore propose (subject to analysis) higher recycling targets for the period beyond 2008, building on the indicative targets that are already in the packaging Regulations up to 2010 and extending these to 2012. The aim will be to divert more packaging waste from landfill and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with some packaging materials (e.g. aluminium and plastics) in particular.
To ensure that increasing amounts of packaging materials from the household waste stream are collected for recycling, the Advisory Committee on Packaging and a group of local authority Chief Executives, supported by Defra, are developing a joint protocol to improve their collaborative working. This is intended to help local government and industry identify the best systems for cost-effective collection of packaging waste from households for recycling and improve performance against both sets of targets.
The Courtauld Commitment and packaging waste
Major retailers, representing 92% of the UK grocery market, signed up to the Courtauld Commitment in 2005 to support the delivery of the following targets:
- to design out packaging waste growth by 2008
- to deliver absolute reductions in packaging waste by March 2010
- to identify ways to tackle the problem of food waste
In 2008, WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme), announced that the first target of Courtauld Commitment Phase 1 - to achieve an absolute halt to growth in grocery retail packaging - had been achieved.
WRAP are still in the process of collecting and analysing the data for 2009/10; calculation of progress for each target is complex, relying upon detailed analysis of extensive data, without which any estimation of progress could be very misleading. WRAP will announce results for the second and third targets later this year.
Phase 2 of the Commitment was launched on March 4th 2010, and will run up to the end of 2012, with final reporting taking place in 2013. The new commitment moves from a sole focus on household food and packaging waste reduction to a more holistic supply chain approach, which continues to include the packaging and food and drink waste arising in UK homes. Phase 2 also marks the start of a move from current weight-based targets to new metrics more in line with strategic objectives on climate change mitigation and wider environmental impacts:
- A new target for a reduction in the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10% – an estimated 1.1 million tonnes CO2eq emissions reduction - the first time we have based a Courtauld target on carbon impacts and factored in recycled content/recyclability
- A new target for a 4% household food and drink waste reduction – with an estimated CO2eq saving of around 1.2million tonnes, a reduction in food waste of around 330,000 tonnes, and a consumer cost saving of around £800million. This is to be achieved through consumer advice/information and behaviour change, and improvements to packaging, labelling, and includes drink/liquid wastes for the first time
- A new target is proposed for food and packaging waste reduction throughout the supply chain – with an estimated CO2eq saving of around 0.7million tonnes - significant widening of the scope as Courtauld Phase 1 looked at the final part of the supply chain only – retailers and brands
The Packaging Directive Targets
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 (the ‘packaging Regulations’) and Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 aim to minimise the amount of packaging used in the first place, and therefore reduce packaging waste. The packaging Regulations also encourage reuse of packaging and aim to increase the recovery and recycling of packaging waste to target levels by the Directive deadline of 31 December 2008.
The Directive targets are:
- Minimum recovery 60%
- Recycling 55% - 80%
Under these, there are material-specific recycling targets which are:
- glass and paper 60%
- metals 50%
- plastics 22.5%
- wood 15%
The Essential Requirements Regulations
The Essential Requirement Regulations place a range of requirements on all packaging placed on the market in the UK including those related to packaging volume and weight. This should be limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain necessary levels of safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance for the packed product.
Key facts and figures
Packaging waste arisings now total over 10 million tonnes per annum and are predicted by the industry to continue to rise slightly, in line with the recent trend. Growth is mostly in plastic packaging.
About 20% of all rubbish put out by households is retail packaging.
Page last modified:
10 March 2010
Page published: 24 May 2007