Supermarkets slated for failing to reduce waste

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The Independent Online

Britain's biggest retailers will get a dressing down from the Government today for failing to meet targets on reducing packaging and waste.

Ben Bradshaw, the local environment minister, will criticise the paltry efforts made by retailers including Tesco, Boots, Marks & Spencer and J Sainsbury to reduce the environmental impact of their products.

In a private meeting with the UK's top 13 grocery chains, Mr Bradshaw will say he wants "big improvements" over the next 12 months if they are to significantly cut the amount of waste produced by the packaging around consumer goods by March 2010. By then the Government's target is for 70 per cent of all packaging waste to be recovered, mostly through recycling. This in turn cuts the amount of waste going into landfill.

Mr Bradshaw will also announce that three big supermarket suppliers have signed up to the Government's waste and resources action programme (Wrap), which was launched last year amid growing concerns at the amount of rubbish produced by the industry. Wrap is today expected to release figures showing just how much waste is.

The reproach from Mr Bradshaw will be an embar-rassment for Tesco, Asda and J Sainsbury which have all pledged to make their businesses "more green", for example by encouraging shoppers to use fewer carrier bags.

Mr Bradshaw will urge grocery chains to focus on reducing food waste over the next 12 months. Tesco's latest figures for 2004 show that it recycled only 60 per cent of its waste, although the chain has made increasing this amount one of the priorities of its ten-point plan to be a "better neighbour".

The food and drink industry accounts for about 10 per cent of all industrial and commercial waste, and packaging makes up 4.5m tonnes of household waste a year. In addition, people throw away about 5m tonnes of food a year.

The British Retail Consortium, the industry lobby group, has already told Mr Bradshaw that his initial targets for reducing the use of carrier bags are "unachievable".

A private member's bill is attempting to introduce a plastic bag level to Scotland but the Government has not backed the measure. Here Mr Bradshaw sides with the retailers, believing that the case for a tax on plastic bags has not been proven.

This year the Women's Institute held a day of action to protest against the plastic packaging used by big grocers and demanded that supermarkets either start charging for carrier bags or offer a financial incentive to people who use their own bags.

Asda, Boots, Budgens, the Co-operative Group, Londis, Iceland, Kwik Save, Marks & Spencer, Morrison's, J Sainsbury, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose all signed up to last year's Wrap initiative.