Reduce: Packaging

When you shop, you end up with packaging. Some you can reuse, some you can recycle, but some just seems to fill up your bin.  Why do we need packaging?

Packaging banner


• protects goods from damage during transport from the manufacturers, via the retailer to your home
• ensures that perishable goods have a useful shelf-life
• protects food goods from tampering and deliberate damage
• provides space for essential information such as contents, allergy advice or cookery instructions.

It will always be necessary to have some packaging.  Without it, more items will be damaged before they are used or consumed, creating even more waste!

Click here for 8 ways packaging helps reduce the amount of good food we throw away in our homes.

Download copy of our packaging leaflet for a summary of how you can reduce your packaging waste. SWP_Packaging_Leaflet_2010 (pdf 499 KB).

What are manufacturers doing to reduce packaging waste?

Manufacturers and retailers are working to improve packaging by using less, designing for recycling and making the packaging from recycled materials, but there is always more that can be done.  Their efforts include packaging used to transport goods from the distribution centre to the stores as well as the packaging you take home.

Many high street retailers and manufacturers have signed up to a voluntary agreement known as the Courtauld Commitment which includes cutting down packaging waste.  This is run by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and has led to many changes you may not have noticed:

• reduction in container sizes
• using thinner layers and less of them
• a change in materials and using more recycled content
• clever designs for in-shop display and transport

The Courtauld Commitment includes aspects such as making goods lighter to transport, thus reducing their carbon footprint and considering how shoppers can dispose of the packaging waste.

The Courtauld Commitment was first launched in 2005 and is now in its third phase of targets to reduce packaging and food waste. Over 50 major retailers, brands and suppliers have already pledged their commitment to this voluntary agreement.

Click here to for more on what has been done so far to improve packaging
Courtauld commitment targets and achievements so far

What can I do to reduce my packaging waste?

When shopping, you can help by choosing:
• items that use less packaging
• items with packaging you can easily recycle
• packaging with a recycled content
• avoid items you think are over packaged.

For more information on how to report over packaged items, click here .

Choose concentrates such as drinks you dilute at home or gel cleaning products as they mean less containers and lighter shopping to carry home.

Choose refills, switch to refill products which help reduce packaging, such as liquid soaps and even coffee.

Buy non-perishable products in bulk, if you can store these it can work out much better value than lots of smaller items too.

Another clever way to reduce your consumption and packaging is to consider borrowing or hiring items, particularly if you will use them infrequently.

Be creative and think of alternative uses to reuse your packaging. From the simple and everyday to the unusual and beautiful creations – here are just some ideas to get you started.

• bread bags make excellent sandwich bags.
• ice-cream and margarine tubs make great storage or lunch boxes.
• cut the corner off cereal boxes and use them for filing papers or storing magazines.
• reuse envelopes – it saves money
• use scrap paper to make a new notepad
• the net packaging from fruit or vegetable packaging can be used as a washing-up scourer.