Supermarkets slammed for unnecessary packaging

LONDON - Supermarkets are using an "excessive" amount of packaging, almost 40% of which cannot be easily recycled, according to a new report, and are holding back individual recycling efforts.

A survey of food packaging by the Local Government Association, a cross-party organisation representing England councils, found that excessive and unnecessary packaging is contributing to the estimated £1.8bn councils will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011.

The survey looked at eight supermarkets -- Asda, Co-op, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose -- and the weight of food packaging they use in a typical shopping basket.

It found that Waitrose had the heaviest packaging at 802.5 grams and Tesco had the lightest at 645.5 grams.

Lidl had the lowest level of packaging that could be easily recycled at 58% while Sainsbury's came out on top with the highest level at 67%.

Council leaders said that while people are recycling more rubbish, their efforts are being held back by supermarkets.

The LGA argues that supermarkets should pay towards recycling services so that more packaging can be recycled at an affordable price that will keep council tax down.

Since the LGA's first survey in October 2007 the weight of food packaging has been reduced overall but the proportion that can be recycled has stayed much the same.

Marks & Spencer is now the second best supermarket in terms of weight of its packaging, having been second to last in the previous two surveys.

Margaret Eaton, chairman of the LGA, said: "If we had less unnecessary packaging it would cut costs and lead to lower prices at the tills.

"When packaging is sent to landfill, it's expensive for taxpayers and damaging for the environment. Supermarkets need to up their game so it's easier for people to do their bit to help the environment."