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Environmental Protection & Preservation


Sainsbury's Cuts Plastic from Packaging in Environmental Revolution


An environmental revolution in packaging was signaled today by Sainsbury's, in the biggest ever initiative to eliminate plastics from Britain's High Streets. The move will save 4,010 thousand tonnes of fossil fuel (3,550 tonnes of plastic) from Sainsbury's output alone every year, as well as reducing rubbish collected for landfill.

150 million plastic trays and bags on Sainsbury's ready meals and organic food will disappear every year under a plan to replace these with 'compostable packaging', the friendliest form of packaging for the environment according to the Women's Institute.

In making the announcement, Justin King, Sainsbury's Chief Executive, laid down a two-pronged challenge to both other retailers and Government: "Our customers tell us that food packaging is extremely important to them and can determine what they buy, so our packaging team has been looking at ways to address these concerns.

"We have already reduced excessive packaging on our Easter eggs, as well as making more things recyclable. We're now confident that putting 500 types of our food, from ready meals to organics, in compostable packaging will significantly help to reduce the packaging that most threatens the environment. It also creates an opportunity for customers to dispose of their own waste at home.

King continued; "In some cases, for example on our organic tomatoes, absolutely everything can be composted at home - from the film and tray that keeps the tomatoes from being damaged, to the tomato vines. In tests, most of the compostable packaging will break down quicker than a banana skin, yet it takes many years for degradable packaging or carrier bags to do the same.

"We urge the Government to ensure that every home in Britain has a compost bin. We also support other retailers in putting more of their food in this packaging so that it becomes the norm. It would be positive to think that in the near future, customers can halve their household waste by composting, as well as contributing to tackling major environmental issues."

How Compostable Packaging works:

Instead of plastic, the packaging will be replaced by the use of maize, sugar-cane or starch packaging. This means it can naturally break down in a garden compost heap, eradicating the need for packaging to be binned or bagged and sent to landfill. Compostable packaging was first pioneered by Sainsbury's in 2002, and has recently been further trialled on a small range of Sainsbury's organic apples, tomatoes and potatoes. Now over 500 food items will move to compostable packaging, which is recognised as the preferred form of necessary packaging by the Women's Institute.

Degradable: Plastic made from oil a fossil fuel with additives to enable it to break down to CO2 plus water but over a very long period of time - takes typically two years.

Compostable(or biodegradable): Plastic made from plant based starch that breaks down into CO2 and water. Can break down naturally in a compost heap/bin without going to landfill.

What to look out for:
  • Sainsbury's SO organic fruit and vegetables. Almost 50% of organic fruit and vegetables will be available in compostable packaging from this week. 80% by Jan 2007.(Included 15% recyclable).
  • All of Sainsbury's Ready Meals by Sept 2007.
  • Organic sausages and organic whole bird - by October 2007.
Sainsbury's has produced packaging guidelines for its suppliers so that more food is packaged in compostable or recyclable material. From this month, Sainsbury's will also be making packaging guidelines much clearer on food labels, e.g. 'Sorry, not recyclable' or 'Please recycle' to make it much clearer to customers what they can do to recycle or compost. The move by Sainsbury's coincides with one in three compost bins that now exist in UK homes.





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