Radical changes for packaging after Courtauld update

The UK’s major retailers could be set to radically change the way they measure the environmental impact of packaging, following discussions on Monday.

In a move that could paradoxically see waste packaging volumes rise, according to some experts, signatories of the Courtauld Commitment – a voluntary agreement between UK retailers to design out packaging waste – are looking to include the contribution of food waste to environmental damage, as well as to develop a new methodology of measuring the carbon impact of packaging. The new objectives were earmarked for discussion at a briefing held by the Waste Resources and Action Programme and Environment Minister Joan Ruddock.

Wrap, along with its 32 UK retail signatories, has been measuring packaging reduction targets in terms of weight, with the goal of halting packaging growth, and claims to have achieved this target.

Refocusing on carbon impact is, says PI3 founder and packaging design expert Steve Kelsey, a more realistic approach to tackling climate change.

‘We’ve been campaigning for Wrap to focus on the real issues. You can only go so far with material reduction before you need to look at redesigning infrastructures to make any great change,’ says Kelsey.

PI3 is involved in two consortiums, one of which includes Wrap and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, exploring new methodologies of measuring carbon impact. Describing the challenges, Kelsey says, ‘The problem with CO2 measurement is that nobody really knows what the best way to do this is. If done correctly, it will throw open a new model with good and accurate comparisons to be made. If not, it will mean going back to the drawing board.’

Wrap, which is Government-funded, has also pledged to reduce grocery sector packaging waste from 2.8 million tonnes to 2.742 million tonnes by 2010, according to Wrap chief executive Liz Goodwin.

Changing the measurement of targets could impact on how signatories approach objectives, says Kelsey. Eradicating food waste, which accounts for more emissions than packaging waste, could result in the creation of more packaging, as a greater variety of sizes and greater product protection is required. As a result, says Kelsey, ‘Designers will have to re-educate themselves as to the deconstruction of products and packaging.’

Courtauld Commitment developments


• To sign up more grocery brands and manufacturers
• To demonstrate visible change to consumers
• To deliver change throughout the supply chain

Future developments under discussion

• How to measure the carbon impact of packaging
• Extending objectives to including food waste and packaging used back-of-store and throughout the supply chain
• How to encourage more recycled content in packaging
• How to make packaging easier to recycle
• A separate voluntary agreement for non-food packaging

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