Firm admits overpackaging as crackdown announcedGovernment to overhaul packaging, in green plan

10 June 2009

packaging trading

A company in Leicester has admitted charges of excess packaging as new plans for a major overhaul of packaging were separately unveiled by the government.

Computer 2000 Distribution Ltd sends out thousands of packages every day to consumers who've bought electronic and computer goods from some of the UK's leading internet retailers. Trading standards officers from Leicestershire County Council  launched a probe after an officer bought a piece of software which was delivered in a large box filled with padding (shown right).

The company admitted breaking the law, accepted a caution and paid the council's costs of £2,886. It's now said it will improve its standards.

Read Which?'s guide to excess food packaging for tips on reducing the amount of waste packaging on an average shopping trip.

Greener packaging

The outcome of the trading standards case coincided with the announcement of a new green packaging strategy by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. The strategy includes making enforcement action against manufacturers of excess and unnecessary packaging easier, and encouraging consumers to continue to report cases of excessive packaging to trading standards.

The plan, called Making the Most of Packaging, examines the future of packaging, and how shops and kitchen cupboards could look if less packaging was produced and thrown away, and more was recycled. 

Mr Benn said: 'We need to rethink the way we deal with packaging, from production line to recycling bin.

'The plans we've announced today set out how we will achieve that - with the goal of making it as easy as possible for consumers to avoid needless packaging in the first place and to get rid of what they do receive in a way that doesn't just create more landfill.'

Product refills and packaging recycling

Under the new plans, refillable and reusable packaging options would be increased. Supermarkets and other stores would be urged to offer refill schemes in stores, on items such as coffee and laundry detergent, rather than requiring customers to buy new, pre-packaged items.

Local household and kerbside recycling services would also be improved and expanded to collect more types of packaging, and there were other measures, listed below.

  • New targets for plastic, glass and aluminium recycling rates 
  • More recycling facilities in public places
  • More glass collection from pubs, clubs and restaurants
  • Aluminium and glass may also be banned from landfill disposal

Read Which?'s essential guide to recycling for tips to help you recycle more.

Tackling excess packaging

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) will work with manufacturers and retailers to help them reduce packaging on everyday products. Liz Goodwin, of Wrap, said: 'Packaging waste is a major issue for shoppers, local authorities and retailers - and we need to join forces to tackle it. By working across the whole supply chain, we have greater opportunities to make a positive difference. We need to cut excess packaging whilst recognising that the right packaging can help products last longer and so reduce waste. This is crucial if we are to meet UK targets for keeping waste out of landfill.

'We have a chance for real innovation here - so that, from design to disposal, packaging is the very best it can be - for shoppers and the environment.'

Which? RSS news feed

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the here. If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste this link into your newsreader: Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to news feeds.