UK Council Takes Excessive Packaging ‘Beef’ to Court

by | Dec 28, 2010

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In England, the Lincolnshire County Council sued popular supermarket chain Sainsbury’s for “excessive packaging” of its premium cut of roast beef. The lawsuit, reported The Guardian, “surprised” Sainsbury’s management after what they considered to be a positive discussion of the packaging issue with the Lincolnshire council.

The council dropped the case two days before its court date, because the company has responded by then and reduced packaging by more than 50 percent, according to the New York Times.

The case is part of a national mindset. Public awareness that the landfills are approaching their limits is high, and regulations on excess packaging have been in effect in the UK since 2003 that “require that producers keep packaging to the minimum required for products’ safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance,” the article said.

Excess packaging rules are policed by the Trade Standards Agency, whose officers investigate consumer complaints that brought a lawsuit against Sainsbury’s beef. And there are economic incentives, too: local governments pay taxes of about $100 per ton of trash sent to landfills, an increase of nearly 50 percent in two years.

Perhaps less extreme is a voluntary program, known as the Courtauld Commitment, which allows companies to make a pledge to reduce packaging. It is the initiative of a government-sponsored program called WRAP. The group says that since 2005 the program has prevented 1.2 million tons of food and packaging waste (670,000 tons of food waste and 520,000 tons of packaging).

All of this trash talk, reports the New York Times, is based on an overall regulation: EU countries are required to reduce by half the amount of trash headed to landfills by 2013 – a return to 1995 levels.

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