Supermarkets: Containers

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 8th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what encouragement and incentives they are providing to supermarkets (1) to reduce the number of single-use and other containers, and (2) to provide facilities for customers to bring and use their own multi-use containers.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Packaging has an important and positive role to play in reducing product damage and food waste. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations require producers to ensure that the packaging they use is the minimum to ensure safety and hygiene and to meet consumer expectations. If anyone receives a product they believe to be over packaged, they should report it to Trading Standards who are responsible for enforcing these regulations.

The Government is working with retailers and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to encourage their efforts to reduce waste and to explore the introduction of plastic free supermarket initiatives in which fresh food is sold loose, giving consumers the choice. WRAP has published a technical report on the evidence for providing fresh produce loose and we are working with Morrisons to evaluate its current trial of selling produce loose, to assess the impact on food waste.

In April last year, WRAP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched their world-leading UK Plastics Pact, with support from the Government, and all the major supermarkets have signed up to it. The Pact brings these organisations together with four key targets for 2025 that aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated. They include action to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single use plastic packaging items. Our proposed reforms will support supermarkets in achieving those targets.

Earlier this year, the Government launched a suite of consultations to overhaul the waste system. This included proposals to replace existing packaging waste regulations with Extended Producer Responsibility to ensure packaging producers pay the full costs of disposing of the packaging they use. Consultations were also launched on introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and increasing consistency in recycling collection, as well as introducing a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content. These consultations have now closed and a summary of responses will be published in due course.

These reforms support delivery of the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy for England, published last year, which sets out our plans to reduce plastic pollution and move towards a more circular economy. This builds on the commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.

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