Defra to get tough on packaging waste

LONDON - The government is to step up the pressure on consumer goods companies to force them to meet packaging guidelines introduced last year to help it hit strict recycling and recovery targets.

The activity is intended as a call to arms for consumer firms, as well as branding and design agencies, to create innovative packaging that will lessen the amount of waste produced.

Representatives from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are to hold talks with a number of major brand owners, industry bodies and agencies to highlight what needs to be done by key stakeholders.

The main element of Defra's action plan will be a packaging conference, which is scheduled to take place in January. There, it will outline the various steps that need to be taken by businesses to ensure they meet the country's 2008 waste targets.

The government is committed to national targets for recycling and composting of 25% by 2006, 30% by 2010 and at least 33% by 2015. It wants the private sector to cut down the waste it produces from surplus packaging.

Companies have come under fire for wasteful packaging in the past and Defra will appeal to businesses to take a long-term outlook on the issue, to avoid unnecessary environmental costs in the future.

The country's biggest supermarket chains have already committed themselves to cutting down the packaging used on goods they sell, and have pledged to invest in new designs and materials backed by the government-supported Waste and Resources Actions Programme.

British households now recycle more than a fifth of their waste, which amounts to almost 23%. This figure is double the rate of four years ago, but still leaves the UK lagging behind other European countries.

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