More biodegradable packaging introduced

September 21, 2006 at 4:28 am

Sainsbury’s is the latest firm to offer biodegradable packaging to its customers: 500 of its products will now be available in compostable packaging. Around 50 per cent of household waste is from purchases made at convenience stores and supermarkets, and 25 per cent of all rubbish put out by households is retail packaging – it’s time for
companies to follow Sainsbury’s lead and take action.

Sainsbury’s announcement follows the move to go greener by other retail companies – this month Ikea announced it would be offering biodegradable shopping bags, and Tesco has just introduced a reward system for re-using carrier bags. Tesco customers are able to collect extra clubcard points by bringing old bags back into the store.

Sainsbury’s is unusual in its decision however; and environmental activist organisation Friends of the Earth are calling for other firms to follow suit with the introduction of biodegradable product packaging. But it must be noted that Sainsbury’s may look deceivingly green– these are just 500 product lines out of the 40 000 sold in shops.

Friends of the Earth are calling for further government action on biodegradable packaging. A spokesperson said: “The Government must ensure that the goods that companies produce are either re-usable, recyclable or compostable. But instead the Government is intent on building more unnecessary, unpopular and polluting incinerators that rely on burning non-recyclable waste.”
But Defra, the Government Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture says: “We are currently trying to assess the most environmentally-sound approach to addressing the problem of plastic bag usage. A number of options have been considered, including the possibility of a tax on plastic bags and the potential of biodegradable bags. However for the time being Defra is focusing on encouraging the reuse and recycling of plastic bags as the most viable means of tackling the issue.”

Sainsbury’s decision to produce biodegradable packaging is a step in the right direction, but more companies will need to copy their initiative – and on a bigger scale – for it to have any real impact for the environment.

What do you think? Would you choose to buy a product if its packaging was biodegradable?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Are refuse collection charges and penalties the answer to better recycling?

September 6, 2006 at 9:14 am

Councils nationwide are under pressure to meet tough recycling targets – yet just 18% of UK waste is recycled, missing the government’s goal to stop a third of our rubbish going to landfill by 2015. In order to meet their quota, councils are cracking down on householders to comply with recycling measures. Penalty systems to punish those who fail to meet recycling measures have been introduced. South Norfolk Council is just one example – they have introduced a ‘red-card’ system whereby residents are reprimanded for mis-sorting their rubbish.

However, householders are reacting by complaining that schemes are too complicated and illogical. For example, in Norfolk four different councils operate four different schemes for residents around Norwich. Each system has a slightly different requirement: some recycle plastic, others don’t; some will refuse to take glass, others will. In addition the colours of the bins vary – whereas Broadland District Council supplies a grey bin for recycling, Great Yarmouth Borough Council provides a green bin.

Councils are at a loss as how to enforce recycling if rules are ignored. In a recent Daily Mail article (August 21) it was reported that outraged householders tipped their refuse in the street in protest at their local recycling system and in the only case to go to court so far, Donna Challice, a householder in Exeter, was acquitted in July for ‘contaminating’ her bin. Yet, according to The Environment Agency, nine out of ten people would recycle more if it were made easier.

It has been suggested that charging residents for refuse collection is the answer. In early August, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw suggested the UK should consider a ‘polluter pays’ policy. And last week (August 27), a new report from a UK think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), recommended the trialling of ‘microchips’ in bins – to monitor the weight of rubbish.

Waste charge has been successfully employed elsewhere. In January 2005, Dublin City Council introduced a new pay by use and volume system for household waste collection services. Householders pay up to 340 Euros a year to have their wheelie bin taken out every week. In a scheme similar to the Irish plastic bag tax, householders are given financial incentive to aid recycling.

However, the implementation of such a system could prove expensive and will take time to be passed by government. It is certainly no short-term solution. But Britain has to match up to the standards set in the EU – householders in Germany, Holland and Austria recycle at least half their waste. If the general public continue to refuse to comply with the schemes of local councils, penalties might be the only solution.

What do you think? Is it time to give the red-card to lazy recyclers?

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »