New report calls for reduction in packaging

Supermarket food packaging has come under fire in Off Our Trolleys?, a new report which calls for a reduction in packaging.

Off Our Trolleys? is published by the Institute for Public Policy Research. It refers to Consumers’ Association research which proves that packaging puts 10 per cent extra on prices.

It also cites the environmental damage of extracting raw materials such as wood from virgin forest for use in paper and board manufacture. “The big food retailers are responsible for the growth of disposable packaging,” it says.

Paul Scott, senior consultant at Dragon International, feels that graphic designers have a responsibility they can no longer ignore.

“Pack designers must now be aware that environmental issues are not just a fad,” says Scott. “We can apply materials differently so we use less paper and plastic. most packs are needlessly elongated to increase shelf impact.”

The IPPR attacks supermarkets for their refusal to consider re-usable packaging and suggests an Office of Fair Trading investigation. It also calls for packaging reduction targets.

But Peter Davies, chief executive of Incpen, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, says the report is misleading. He argues that inadequate packaging leads to spoiled and wasted food.

According to Davies, the packaging industry has spent “millions of pounds” to ensure that food packaging is progressively and safely reduced. “One of the key reasons we have packaging is to keep our food fresh and safe from contaminants,” he adds.

But Scott feels this is “simplifying the issue – we can do away with bulky plastic packaging and redesign cardboard containers”. Washing powder, for example, “could be stored in a smaller box fronted by a big card”.

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