Sainsbury's faces court for 'excessive' packagingSupermarket giant in landmark legal case
17 September 2010
Sainsbury's is being prosecuted for its packaging of fresh beef, and could face a fine of £5,000 - or an unlimited sum at a higher court.
The case - brought by Lincolnshire County Council following a customer complaint - invokes the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations which state wrapping must be 'limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain the necessary level of safety, hygiene and acceptance.'
Only five cases have been brought under the seven-year-old regulations, and many retailers continue to use what some call 'excessive' wrapping for their goods.
The Sainsbury's case concerns the packaging of its Taste the Difference Slow Matured Ultimate Beef Roasting Joint, priced at £11.99/kg. Following a consumer complaint to Lincolnshire County Council, Trading Standards carried out an investigation that has resulted in the matter being brought before the court.
Join the excess packaging debate by sharing your comments and pictures at Which? Conversation's Is excess packaging out of control? post. You can see photos of 'excessively' wrapped goods captured by Which? members in our excess packaging guide.
Lincolnshire County Council's head of Trading Standards Peter Heafield said: 'Excessive packaging on goods can cause unnecessary damage to the environment and increase costs associated with recycling and landfill.
'Lincolnshire County Council is working closely with Sainsbury's to resolve the issue, as we evaluate information on the nature and timescales regarding their packaging reductions, which we received from Sainsbury's... At this stage, the matter is therefore still before the courts.'
The beef in question is vacuum packed, then contained in an additional tray and lid and has a printed cardboard sleeve.
Sainsbury's is 'surprised' by the move, and claims it has already reduced the packaging on this product by 53% since the complaint was lodged in February.
The council's intention to prosecute came just hours after Sainsbury's announced it would be packaging its Basics range of breakfast cereals in bags alone, without outer casing in boxes. This was set to be part of Sainsbury's 'industry-leading target' to cut packaging by a third by 2015.
Waitrose is also working towards reducing plastic packaging in its products, and is replacing traditional meat trays with 'snip and slide' eco packaging in a bid to reduce household waste by 90 tonnes a year.
There are various ways to help cut the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. Our essential recycling guide has tips and a video guide on how to improve your recycling, as well as how to make the most of local services.
Earlier this year, Which? conducted an investigation into the number of carrier bags used to deliver online shopping - and Sainsbury's was one of the worst offenders for plastic waste. See how it fared against other big names in our Bags of waste from online supermarkets news story.