The report, published by the Local Government Association, reveals that as much as 40% of supermarkets' packaging cannot be recycled with M&S named as the worst culprit. The report also said that Britain will fail to meet its EU targets if supermarkets do not take action. The findings are a blow to M&S which has promoted its green credentials this year.
The study involved the purchase of a range of common food items representing a regular shopping basket from eight retailers, including Asda, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco, a local high street and a large market. The analysis involved recording the total weight of the product and recording the total weight of the packaging. The component parts of the packaging were weighed separately to measure the proportion of packaging that was recyclable or rubbish.
The supermarket with the heaviest packaging was Lidl's at 799.5g per basket, while the contents of the M&S basket had the lowest level of packaging that could be recycled at 60%. Many common items from the likes of Sainsbury's, such as plastic tubs used for pasta sauces and soups, as well as plastic trays for tomatoes and waxed lined drinks cartons, are not recyclable. Asda was the best performing supermarket with packaging weighing 714g of which 70% could be recycled.
Recycling rates in Britain are increasing and councils are extending their recycling services to reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfills, but their efforts are being hindered by supermarkets, many of which claim green credentials and have launched initiatives such as "bags for life". The supermarkets contribution to the landfill problem is exacerbated by the millions of free carrier bags they give away each year.
The LGA has warned that these efforts to reach EU recycling targets will not succeed unless supermarkets do more to reduce excessive packaging.
Paul Bettison, chairman of LGA's Environment Board, said: "People are working hard to increase their recycling rates, but their efforts are being hamstrung by needlessly over-packaged products on sale in supermarkets. We all have a responsibility to reduce the amount of waste being thrown into landfill, which is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change." Bettison warned that councils and council tax payers are facing fines of up to £3bn if the amount of waste is not reduced dramatically.
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com