Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 11:49 UK

Stores told to disclose packaging

Shopper in supermarket with basket
Councils want supermarkets to disclose how much packaging they produce

UK supermarkets should be forced to reveal how much packaging they produce, local councils say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said only Morrisons, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer responded to its request for details on packaging.

The remaining five it asked, including Tesco and Sainsbury's, referred the LGA to the waste reduction body Wrap.

However, Wrap said it publishes data only for the grocery sector as a whole, not for individual stores.

Transparency needed

Supermarkets log how much packaging they produce with Wrap, a government-funded organisation, under a voluntary agreement.

Wrap said this resulted in zero growth in packaging in 2008 and claimed that changes could already be seen on supermarket shelves with Marks and Spencer abandoning plastic trays in their packaging of beef joints and steaks.

"The next objective for the agreement is a 100,000-tonne reduction in grocery packaging by 2010," it added.

The LGA urged this information be made public every three months.

"Supermarkets must be open with people about how much packaging they are producing," said Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association, in a letter to Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

"It is vital that consumers can make informed choices about where they shop and which products they buy."

Efforts 'undermined'

The LGA said recycling efforts are being undermined by supermarkets using excessive packaging, and this will add to the estimated £1.8bn local authorities will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011.

Sainsbury's said it used packaging to protect food, to keep it fresher and extend its life, and that it had the industry's most ambitious target to reduce packaging - by 33% relative to sales by 2015.

It said local authority recycling rates varied from 14% to 58%, and said the LGA should focus its efforts on helping recycling authorities improve their record.

Earlier this year, the LGA published its own survey of supermarket waste.

Based on 29 common grocery items, it found Waitrose had the most wrapping while Tesco had the least.

Lidl had the least recyclable packaging on their products, Sainsbury's contained the most.

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