Lib Dem conference backs Jo’s packaging plan

Jo’s motion sets out a range of measures to curb excess packaging

Liberal Democrat members at the party’s conference in Brighton have backed plans to tackle excess packaging proposed by Jo Swinson.

Conference delegates voted overwhelmingly to adopt Jo’s policy motion, entitled ‘Taking Action to Tackle Excess Packaging’ today. The motion calls for a national body to tackle excess packaging, recommends that customers should be able to leave unwanted packaging with supermarkets for recycling and proposes that binding targets on packaging reduction should be met by manufacturers.

Commenting on her campaign against excess packaging, Jo said:

“Millions of tonnes of unnecessary packaging are dumped in Britain’s landfill sites every single year. Despite an increase in recycling, domestic waste has risen by a fifth since 1997, which is completely unacceptable.

“Consumers are paying for packaging three times over: at the checkout, in council and landfill tax, and through the environmental cost of sending mountains of packaging waste to landfill.

“It makes no environmental sense to over-package products and no economic sense to charge frustrated consumers for packaging they don’t need. Government, supermarkets and producers need to act to stop this flood of packaging at its source.”

Full text of Jo’s policy motion:

Taking Action to Tackle Excess Packaging

Conference notes that:

i) Total domestic waste produced in Britain has increased 21% since 1997, to over 26 million tonnes.

ii) Household recycling in the UK has increased from 6% to 23%, but this has only managed to keep pace with the total increase.

iii) A large proportion of this waste, around 5 million tonnes, is made up of packaging.

iv) Packaging accounts for around 17% of the average household food budget.

v) A Liberal Democrat survey of UK supermarkets found that more than 17 billion plastic bags are given away each year.

vi) The Government has failed to meet the targets for packaging reduction set by EU Directive 94/62/EC, adopted in the UK through the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997.

vii) DEFRA’s current policy of issuing Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs) to producers, to show compliance with recycling regulations, has failed to halt rising levels of packaging.

viii) The Government’s Waste Strategy for England, published in May 2007, falls short of presenting effective proposals to tackle excess packaging, particularly over enforcement of current Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations.

Conference notes with concern the need to reduce excess packaging, and welcomes the campaigns of the Women’s Institute and Independent newspaper which have illustrated the broad public consensus that exists over the need to take action.

Conference recognises that:

a) Current Government policies fail to address with sufficient rigour the need to cut the amount of packaging used by both suppliers and sales outlets, including supermarkets.

b) The current Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations do not provide an effective basis for Trading Standards Offices to pursue legal proceedings in cases of excessive packaging.

c) The Courtauld Commitments to reduce excess packaging made by 92% of the UK grocery sector are ineffective, both due to their voluntary nature and because of the lack of a protocol for reporting progress on meeting the targets.

d) Actions taken to date by Government and supermarkets has failed to achieve significant levels of reduction in disposable plastic bag use.

Conference therefore calls for:

1. New legislation requiring supermarkets over 250sqm in size to provide waste points in store, allowing customers to remove and deposit unwanted packaging before leaving the store.

2. Enforcement of excess packaging regulations by Trading Standards offices to be improved through amendments to strengthen the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations.

3. The creation of a new national body with powers of prosecution to tackle large-scale producers of excess packaging in conjunction with local Trading Standards offices.

4. Government action to secure commitments from supermarkets to participate in a deposit scheme for plastic carrier bags, charging consumers for bags and refunding them when bags are returned.

5. Encouragement to community initiatives such as the voluntary moratorium on plastic bags by local retailers in the town of Modbury and other schemes to improve their local environment.

6. The introduction of binding packaging reduction targets to be met by producers and retailers, in place of the current voluntary Courtauld Commitments.

7. Effective fiscal incentives to reduce excessive packaging and disposable products, introduced as part of the Liberal Democrat Environmental Incentive Programme.

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