Jul 10, 2007
MPs sign up to the campaign against excess packaging
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Published: 27 April 2007
More than 100 MPs have backed The Independent's campaign against excessive packaging as political support grows for action to reduce the millions of tonnes of wrappers and cartons dumped in the nation's bins.
A Commons motion condemning the sheer waste of such large quantities of plastic and paper, and urging manufacturers to cut their use of packaging has been signed by 112 MPs from all parties and parts of the United Kingdom.
Now The Independent is calling for people to have their voice heard on the issue by lobbying their MP to join the protest.
A groundswell of parliamentary support for Early Day Motion 814 will show the Government the force of public opinion on the issue and increase the chances of legislation reaching the statute book.
Tabled a few days after we began our Campaign Against Waste on 22 January, EDM 814 commends the campaign against excessive packaging run by The Independent and calls on shops to tackle the problem and to encourage suppliers to do likewise.
It points out that packaging takes up 17 per cent of the annual food budget and generates 4.6 million tonnes of household rubbish a year.
So far, The Independent's campaign has exposed how scores of everyday products are over-packaged in wrappers, trays and cartons made from finite natural resources such as oil.
In a sign that pressure on the issue is increasing, two MPs who have signed are now threatening to table private members' Bills to eradicate unnecessary packaging once and for all.
One Bill would directly confront shops with the problems their waste causes by requiring them to take back packaging from shoppers. Another would tighten regulations that offer loopholes to manufacturers. Parliamentary questions and a Commons debate are also being planned.
The willingness of MPs to legislate is evidence of a hardening of attitudes among politicians to packaging, which is deeply unpopular with many voters.
Public concern has already forced retailers to show they are serious about halting the plastic detritus accumulated on shopping trips. The main supermarket groups have announced targets for reductions in packaging of between 5 and 25 per cent.
This week Sainsbury's put on sale 20,000 cotton bags by the designer Anya Hindmarch as an alternative to disposable bags, prompting shoppers to begin queuing at 2am. Yesterday, Asda announced that it was asking shoppers at two of its northern stores to dump unnecessary packaging in wheelie bins.
But MPs are concerned that the voluntary Courtauld commitment, agreed to by retailers to reduce packaging by 2010, does not go far enough. A survey of Easter eggs last month found that they consisted of as much as 90 per cent packaging.
Questions have been asked in Parliament about why statutory and voluntary measures have failed to prevent examples of excessive packaging appearing in almost every high street store.
The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, whose persistence led to the disclosure of MPs' travel expenses after a two-year battle, is one of the parliamentarians agitating for change. Mr Baker, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group, said: "I think the public out there and the MPs in here resent excess packaging."
A fellow campaigner, Andrew Stunnell MP, has introduced a 10-minute rule Bill that would allow customers to take back packaging to the shops. He intends to enshrine the proposal in a private members' Bill unless there is a dramatic improvement in packaging or a seismic political event alters his plans. Mr Stunnell said: "You and I are spending £470 on packaging each year which we throw away, which is not needed. And then someone else is paying a lot of landfill tax to put it in a hole in the ground, which is not needed.
"Putting a little bit of pressure on the commercial companies to act is what's needed."
Jo Swinson, of the Liberal Democrats, who tabled the EDM, is also considering bringing forward a bill.
"In six months' time there might be other pressing issues that come to the fore but I will be seriously, seriously considering packaging and be encouraging others to do so," she said.
First, the MP will investigate why only a handful of companies have been prosecuted under the 2003 Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations. The law is intended to prevent excess wrapping but has loopholes allowing excess waste where there is "consumer acceptance", or where it is needed to "provide identification" or for "stimulating purchase".
"We have got these regulations: why aren't they working?" asked Mrs Swinson. She and her fellow MPs will learn whether they can table legislation in November after the annual ballot of places for private members' bills.
In the meantime, Mrs Swinson intends to call a Commons debate on packaging that would be answered by a government minister.
"I think that packaging is something that increasingly resonates across society," she said.
"Every time you go to the supermarket checkout it confronts you. A lot of the time there are things going into bins that aren't even recyclable. And there's too much going in anyway."
Concern about levels of rubbish are shared by local politicians, who are facing a 33 per cent rise in landfill next year. Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, warned yesterday that, at the present rate of dumping, landfill space would run out in nine years.
"Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than any other country on the continent," Mr Bruce-Lockhart said. "For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about environmental consequences or rising costs. Those days are now over."
The Early Day Motion and the MPs who have signed it
That this House notes with concern the excessive levels of packaging used by manufacturers and retailers, accounting for 4.6 million tonnes of household waste every year and 17 per cent of the average household food budget; commends the recent campaign against excessive packaging run by The Independent newspaper; and urges supermarkets to reduce where possible packaging on goods sold, encourage the re-use of plastic bags, recycle packaging waste and encourage suppliers to reduce packaging further up the supply chain.
The following 112 MPs have signed the Motion:
David Anderson Blaydon, Lab
Norman Baker Lewes, Lib Dem
Kevin Barron Rother Valley, Lab
AlanJ Beith Berwick-upon-Tweed, Lib Dem
Peter Bottomley Worthing West, Con
Tom Brake Carshalton and Wallington, Lib Dem
Colin Breed South East Cornwall, Lib Dem
Jeremy Browne Taunton, Lib Dem
Malcolm Bruce Gordon, Lib Dem
David Burrowes Enfield Southgate, Con
Lorely Burt Solihull, Lib Dem
John Butterfill Bournemouth West, Con
Vincent Cable Twickenham, Lib Dem
Gregory Campbell East Londonderry, DUP
Martin Caton Gower, Labour
Katy Clark North Ayrshire and Arran, Labour
Nick Clegg Sheffield Hallam, Lib Dem
Derek Conway Old Bexley and Sidcup, Con
Frank Cook Stockton North, Lab
Jeremy Corbyn Islington North, Lab
Stephen Crabb Preseli Pembrokeshire, Con
David Crausby Bolton North East, Lab
Ann Cryer Keighley, Lab
John Cummings Easington, Lab
Edward Davey Kingston and Surbiton, Lib Dem
Ian Davidson Glasgow South West, Lab
Dai Davies Blaenau Gwent, Ind
Janet Dean Burton, Lab
Andrew Dismore Hendon, Lab
Jeffrey Donaldson Lagan Valley, DUP
David Drew Stroud, Lab
Philip Dunne Ludlow, Con
Mark Durkan Foyle, Social Dem and Labour Party
Jeff Ennis Barnsley East and Mexborough, Lab
Bill Etherington Sunderland North, Lab
Nigel Evans Ribble Valley, Con
David Evennett Bexleyheath and Crayford, Con
Timothy Farron Westmorland and Lonsdale, Lib Dem
Lynne Featherstone Hornsley and Wood Green, Lib Dem
Don Foster Bath, Lib Dem
Neil Gerrard Walthamstow, Lab
Andrew George St Ives, Lib Dem
Sandra Gidley Romsey, Lib Dem
Julia Goldsworthy Falmouth and Camborne, Lib Dem
Mike Hancock Portsmouth South, Lib Dem
Nick Harvey N. Devon, Lib Dem
David Heath Somerton and Frome, Lib Dem
John Hemming Birmingham, Yardley, Lib Dem
David Heyes Ashton-under-Lyne, Lab
Sharon Hodgson Gateshead East and Washington West, Lab
Paul Holmes Chesterfield, Lib Dem
Kevin Hopkins Luton North, Lab
Lindsay Hoyle Chorley, Lab
Chris Huhne Eastleigh, Lib Dem
Mark Hunter Cheadle, Lib Dem
Brian Iddon Bolton South East, Lab
Glenda Jackson Hampstead and Highgate, Lab
Brain Jenkins Tamworth, Lab
Lynne Jones Birmingham Selly Oak, Lab
Daniel Kawczynski Shrewsbury and Atcham, Con
Charles Kennedy Ross Skye and Lochaber, Lib Dem
Robert Key Salisbury, Con
Susan Kramer Richmond Park, Lib Dem
Norman Lamb N. Norfolk, Lib Dem
David Laws Yeovil, Lib Dem
John Leech Manchester Withington, Lib Dem
David Lepper Brighton Pavilion, Lab
Tony Lloyd Manchester Cen., Lab
Elfyn Llwyd Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Plaid Cymru
Tim Loughton East Worthing and Shoreham, Con
Rob Marris Wolverhampton South West, Lab
Gordon Marsden Blackpool South, Lab
Chris McCafferty Calder Valley, Lab
William McCrea S. Antrim, DUP
Alasdair McDonnell Belfast South, SDLP
John McDonnell Hayes and Harlington, Lab
Alan Meale Mansfield, Lab
Madeleine Moon Bridgend, Lab
Elliot Morley Scunthorpe, Lab
Greg Mulholland Leeds North West, Lib Dem
Doug Naysmith Bristol NW, Lab
Andrew Pelling Croydon Cen, Con
Mike Penning Hemel Hempstead, Con
Willie Rennie, Dunfermline and West Fife, Lib Dem
Paul Rowen Rochdale, Lib Dem
Joan Ruddock Lewisham Deptford, Lab
Bob Russell Colchester, Lib Dem
Martin Salter Reading W, Lab
Adrian Sanders Torbay, Lib Dem
Barry Sheerman Huddersfield, Lab
Alan Simpson Nottingham S, Lab
David Simpson Upper Bann, DUP
Peter Soulsby Leicester S, Lab
Bob Spink Castle Point, Con
Ian Stewart Eccles, Lab
Andrew Stunell Hazel Grove, Lib Dem
David Taylor North West Leicestershire, Lab
Matthew Taylor Truro and St Austell, Lib Dem
John Thurso Caithness Sunderland and Easter Ross, Lib Dem
Rudi Vis Finchley and Golders Green, Lab
Steve Webb Northavon, Lib Dem
Betty Williams Conway, Lab
Hywel Williams Caernarfon, Plaid Cymru
Mark Williams Ceredigion, Lib Dem
Roger Williams Brecon and Radnorshire, Lib Dem
Stephen Williams Bristol West, Lib Dem
Phil Willis Harrogate and Knaresborough, Lib Dem
Jenny Willott Cardiff Cen, Lib Dem
Nicholas Winterton Macclesfield, Con
Mike Wood Batley and Spen, Lab
Derek Wyatt Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Lab
Richard Younger-Ross Teignbridge, Lib Dem
Lobby your MP
* If you are fed up with receiving so much rubbish with your shopping, lobby your MP to sign Early Day Motion 814.
* You can contact your MP by email, post and phone or in person at the Commons, or in your constituency.
* The email address for MPs follows a formula; surname then initial @ parliament.uk, so Hazel Blears' address is <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>blearsh@ parliament.uk. The postal address is House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. The Commons switchboard number is 020-7219 3000. Ask for your MP and you will be put through to their office.
* You also have a right to lobby your MP in person by turning up at Parliament and asking to see them. Alternatively, make an appointment by checking at your MP's constituency surgery.
As well as being irritating and unnecessary, excess packaging is a waste of resources, increases pollution, contributes to climate change, and squanders precious landfill space.
Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South
"If the supermarkets and the Government take no notice of The Independent's campaign, the next step will be for consumers to unpack goods and leave the packaging on the counter."
Mike Penning, Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead
"This is a complex issue and government has a role - but consumer pressure is the way we will tackle this."
Elliot Morley, Labour MP for Scunthorpe and former environment minister
"If we do not see reductions in waste and packaging, we are going to pay a high price."
Jo Swinson, Lib Dem MP for Dunbartonshire East
"Packaging is far too often not recyclable, and that's very frustrating for consumers."
Peter Ainsworth, shadow Environment Secretary
"Everywhere I go people are doing their best to try to reducewaste ... It is for industry to respond."
Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West
"As a former dustman it amazes me how much bigger the bins have grown ... That is partly due to the destructive way in which goods are packaged. I back The Independent's campaign to the hilt."
Chris Huhne, Lib Dem environment spokesman
"We should be looking at the possibility of legislation so that shops are required to take back packaging from consumers."
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.
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