Green slur on sector as firms fail to deal with waste issue

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Drink sector, Recycling, Asda

Green slur on sector as firms fail to deal with waste issue
Environment Agency unveils initiative to improve food and drink's Green planning

The food and drink sector has been named and shamed as one of the worst 'green' performers by the Environment Agency (EA) in its annual Spotlight report covering all businesses in England and Wales.

According to the EA, only 30% of food and drink sites were rated in the top band for meeting environmental targets, although this showed some improvement on the previous year.

"If you opened up an ordinary household bin bag, you would find that most of its contents would include packaging and products from some of the biggest names in the world of food and drink," said the EA's acting chief executive Paul Leinster.

While he acknowledged "significant progress" had been made by the sector, he called on it to do more to reduce the amount of packaging and waste it created.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) was quick to refute criticism of its members and said the EA should "stick to enforcement and stop preaching to the converted". It claimed all major retailers had agreed to reduce food and packaging waste as part of the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy launched by the government earlier this year.

Most recently, Asda announced plans to reduce to zero the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 2010, by recycling, reusing or composting everything it previously dumped from the back of its stores. It has also embarked on an 18-month review of all its own-label packaging to reduce the amount of rubbish that shoppers throw away.

According to the EA, the food and drink industry was responsible for 14% of all waste generated within the areas it covers - the second biggest sector after fuel and power.

The number of serious pollution incidents in the sector rose 29% in 2005 to 27 and accounted for 5% of all serious incidents in UK industry. Households produced 4.6Mt of packaging waste, most of which ended up in landfill, and 15% of greenhouse gases resulted from food production and distribution, said the EA.

To address the problem, Leinster announced development of a joint food and drink sector plan to "maximise sound environmental management". He also said a voluntary sector plan would be developed with the BRC.

Asda chief operating officer David Cheesewright said: "We're determined to stop sending stuff from our stores to landfill sites. We also want to help our customers reduce the amount of rubbish they throw away each week." He made a commitment to reduce Asda's packaging by at least 10%

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