Friday, June 13, 2008

Shrink wrap

This is the last of this week's special blog-fest about reducing paper consumption to celebrate the launch of the Shrink website, the place to go to express your willingness to save forests, the climate, water and pollution by reducing the amount of paper you use - please make your pledge to save paper now, and help us to send a message to the biggest paper users that they should waste less of this valuable and useful resource. And who are the biggest paper users? Well, the biggest pulp-using sector is the packaging industry, and their products mostly reach consumers via retail outfits, particularly supermarkets. The global packaging industry is an economy bigger than the Russian Federation, and while there is no denying that well-used packages can be good for food hygiene, for example, there is no excuse for the huge volumes of paper used solely to shout brand messages at consumers before a rapid trip from shopping trolley to trash.

In the UK, supermarkets responded to a government initiative called WRAP (waste reduction action programme) by agreeing the landmark Courtauld Commitment in 2005 to work to reduce waste, including packaging. Individual supermarkets have pledged to make sweeping cuts in packaging, but as they have defined their own reduction levels and timescales, some of these, such as Asda's promise of a 25% cut in their own food packaging by 2008, are much more impressive than others, such as Sainsbury's bid for a mere 5% reduction in the same period. But what's worse is that a recent study shows that the progress towards these targets has all but ground to a halt, with UK supermarkets achieving packaging reductions of only 2% in the past year. Our verdict? Must try harder.

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