The average household in the UK buys over 4,000 items of food and other products every year. In the UK as a whole, 25 million households buy over 100 billion items every year. Over 75% of those purchases are grocery products – mainly food and drink but also household detergents, paper products, cosmetics, toiletries, nappies and pet food.
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The primary role of packaging is to protect and preserve the product. Reducing packaging may increase product wastage and reduce product hygiene – with environmental impacts much greater than that of the packaging “saved”
This summary is based on a report published by the UK Centre for Economics & Environmental Development (UK CEED), a charitable research institute, following independent research into packaging. It was commissioned by INCPEN (the Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment), the body set up in 1974 to research the environmental and social impacts of packaging.
The Responsible Packaging Code of Practice is a welcome contribution to improving packaging designed and used in the UK. The Code addresses both environmental concerns and consumer needs.
Western consumers buy food and goods when they want them, in good condition and with little wastage. In less developed economies, up to half of all food is spoilt before it reaches consumers. In western Europe and the USA the figure is under 3%. The difference is largely due to modern distribution and packaging systems
The amount of packaging used in the UK has increased by less than 4% since 1999 (8.5 to 8.8 million tonnes, in 2004 – excluding wood).