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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

ASDA and their recycling claims - just how green is ASDA?

It appears I have managed to upset some of the management at ASDA by tweeting about their packaging that cannot be recycled and how annoying this is.

Apparently I am to be sent a big report - woooo.  Seriously, I look forward to it because it isn't often a corporate giant responds to the little lone voice.

Anyway, now from the corporate spin back to reality.

Last night I decided on cooking chicken in a tomato and onion sauc served on a bed of leeks with roasted vine tomatoes and olives.

The packaging the baby leeks came in states: "Bag plastic not currently recycled."

The packaging the vine tomatoes came in states: "Punnet plastic check local recycling.  Film plastic not currently recycled."

The packaging the chicken came in states: "Sleeve card widely recycled, tray metal check local recycling and film plastic not currently recycled."

So, half of the packaging from one meal I have had to throw into landfill and two thirds of the remaining half is dependent on the council.

This simply is not good enough.

Here is the waste statement from ASDAs green section on their website:
We’ve set ourselves the target of sending zero waste to landfill by 2010; and not just in our stores, but across all of the ASDA and George businesses, including depots and offices.

Landfilling is damaging to the environment, because the energy and materials required to make the things we throw away are lost instead of being recycled. What’s worse, biodegradable waste in landfill breaks down to produce greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming.

By encouraging everyone at ASDA to reduce waste, and by finding innovative uses for the things we usually throw away, we can save money and vital natural resources – making our business kinder to the planet. And by reducing our costs, we’re able to pass our savings on to our customers.
ASDA do also call for the end of postcode lottery recycling, that's easy for them to say especially given that they don't even bother ensuring all of their own packaging can be recycled. 

Don't do what I do, do what I say is obviously the ASDA Walmart way.

There is a grading system and coding for plastics to be recycled and often councils will only do the first two on this list here because of the economics.  However, why don't we look at introducing recycling for business as well (a campaign I persuaded Lynne Featherstone MP to run back in 2005/06) then given the volume coming through each council area it should all become easier and more economical.
The supermarkets have to be one of the biggest offenders, if my one trip yesterday proved nything it proved that although the supermarkets listen to criticism on social media outlets such as twitter, they don't follow through all of the way, otherwise my blog post could never have been written in the first place.
ASDA - right of reply?  I will happily post a reply up here unedited in response.


Andrew Tibbs said...

marks and spencer are much the same. Despite claims that they too are going to reduce their carbon footprint to zero, a lot of their packaging cannot be recycled, although a lot of it is excessive in the first place. Take men's white t shirts, the v neck variety is packaged by rolling it into a tube shape and holding it together with a cardboard sleeve. However the round neck is packaged with a huge cardboard back, on a plastic frame, with labels. There's just no need.

Julian Walker-Palin, Asda said...

Hi Andy, I read your blog with interest as I Head up Corporate Policy on Sustainability for Asda. I would like to address your points and thank you for making the comments in the first place.

Firstly it’s worth us remembering that packaging has a fundamental purpose. Not only does it protect products from being damaged but for food items it also helps to keep these fresh. Without packaging we would have food rotting in the fields or in supply networks, as can be seen every day in countries like India. We all know that decomposing food emits far more greenhouse gas than the production of packaging. So accepting that packaging is necessary in modern supply chains I also think it is fair to say that before 2006 we’d allowed our packing amount to grow. It had always remained within legal limits but there was also an opportunity to go after in terms of reduction. In fact as a low cost retailer every £1 spent on packaging should rightly have been spent making the product more affordable for our customers.

In 2006 the Courtauld Commitment was extremely helpful in pulling industry together to look at the role of and the levels of packaging. While the rest of industry made a 10% reduction, we committed to reducing ours by a quarter. A reduction we achieved by the end of 2009 and in fact, now we’re at a 28% reduction. This is industry leading by a clear mile.

We’ve also led industry through the development of our Packaging Scorecard which will be live in a trial phase next month. This Packaging Scorecard is intended as a tool to help evaluate the level and type of packaging around a product to make sensible decisions on how it can be optimised. We have also set ourselves the objective in this system of using carbon as a proxy for environment impact to get around the one dimensional approach that you get with pure weight reduction. This is industry leading also.

Furthermore we were a founder member of the Packaging Recycling Action Group (PRAG), which I personally chaired for over a year. The PRAG is still in existence and is now chaired by INCPEN and members include major retailers, brands, councils, waste management companies, packaging industry and central and devolved governments, amongst others. It is the largest group ever to come together to look at packaging and how it can be optimised in its usage and be recycled / re-used more efficiently at end of life. The PRAG has acted as an advisor to government and undoubtedly has helped to move the debate forwards.

The logo to which you refer was actually created by Asda and other retailers and in fact 95% of our packaging is technically recyclable. Whether one of our customers can actually recycle it with their local council depends on the collection arrangements in their local area but this doesn't stop it being a recyclable material. The PRAG again focussed on creating a discussion about how we can get standardisation of materials collected a kerb side for recycling.

I hope that this further detail shows you that not only do we use less packaging than any other retailer but we have also helped to move the debate forwards and find solutions to packaging optimisation and recycling nationally, as well as being instrumental in creating the clearest logo yet to help packaging recycling. I would be very pleased to get any further comments you may have.

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