Dr Anna Watson: Waste we don't see is other half of story


I suspect I am not alone in having a packaging pet hate - whether it is potatoes in plastic trays or cellophane-wrapped bananas. Yet the packaging foisted on the unsuspecting shopper is only half the story. The waste we don't see - huge quantities of food that doesn't make it onto the shelves and the wrapping our food is delivered to the store in - is the other half. Much of this waste ends up in landfill or is burnt in incinerators. That not only squanders valuable resources but also releases potent gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere.

Fortunately this is one problem that is easily solved. Friends of the Earth have been talking to some of the major supermarkets about the measures they can take to cut down on waste. Reducing the amount of packaging is a good place to start. Their next step should be to ensure that all of their packaging can be reused, recycled or composted. Out with milk cartons produced from a complex mix of aluminium, plastic and paper and in with reusable glass bottles.

Plastics are a particularly thorny issue. Supermarket products are encased in many different types of plastics yet most local authorities only collect one or two varieties. This makes it impossible for even the most eco-conscious shopper to recycle. To solve this problem, retailers must stick to using plastics which local authorities can recycle.

Supermarkets also need to make sure that more of their packaging is made from recycled materials in the first place. This would boost the UK's recycling industry - creating jobs and making it easier and cheaper for us all to recycle more.

Retailers own food waste can be dealt with even more easily. Out of date or damaged food should be composted or anaerobically digested to produce renewable energy. Marks & Spencer has committed to trial this approach to provide heat and light in a number of their stores. Friends of the Earth welcomes this move and wants to see other supermarkets follow suit.

Finally, the retailers need to use some of their profits to help fund doorstep recycling schemes which deal with the packaging they pass on to customers.

But dealing with waste is not an issue we can leave to supermarkets to address in their own good time. The Government needs to take a lead when they publish a new waste strategy in the next few months. It should use this opportunity to set legally-binding targets for the amount of waste that retailers compost and recycle. They should also introduce a ban on sending recyclable and compostable materials to landfill or incineration. If supermarkets are serious about their green credentials they will actively support both these measures.

Dr Anna Watson, Waste and Recycling Campaigner, FoE

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be joining an ISO 9001...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A woman runs down the street  

Should wolf-whistling be reported to the Police? If you're Poppy Smart, then yes

Jane Merrick

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?