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U.K. Recycles Two-Thirds of All Packaging: Report

New figures from the British government shows that the U.K. has exceeded E.U. targets for recycling, but campaigners claim supermarkets should do more to combat the problem.

The government will today release figures showing that the U.K. exceeded E.U. recycling targets last year, after nearly two thirds of all packaging produced was recycled.

The data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency showed that last year U.K. businesses "contributed to the recovery" of more than seven million tonnes of packaging of which 6.6 million tonnes were recycled.

It also calculated that recycling packaging materials resulted in around 8.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions being avoided, equivalent to that generated by one-and-a-half million U.K. homes each year.

"This is a really significant achievement and shows that we are making good progress on the recycling of packaging," said environment minister Jane Kennedy. "Businesses which handle packaging have a vital role to play in reducing the amount of waste we're sending to landfill and I'm pleased to see they're doing their bit."

Environment Agency chief executive Dr Paul Leinster hailed the performance as "the best year yet for the amount of packaging waste recycled", but warned that while good progress was being made the Environment Agency was still ready to take legal action against firms who failed to comply with recycling regulations.

The government's recycling targets were handed down by E.U. regulators which set minimum limits for recycling 55 per cent and recovering 60 per cent of packaging across the year.

Defra said the U.K. also met all its specific targets for different types of packaging, including exceeding the 60 per cent recycling target for paper by recycling almost 80 per cent of paper packaging. Targets for glass, metal and wood were also met, although the U.K. only just reached the minimal 22.5 per cent target for plastic packaging, recycling 23.7 per cent of the waste collected.

However, despite improvements in recycling rates some environmental groups remain convinced that not enough is being done to curb packaging levels in the first place.

A recent study from the Local Government Association found that on average 40 per cent of the packaging in a typical shopping basket could not be recycled, prompting calls from councils for the government to crackdown on excess packaging.

The councils plea for greater government action was echoed by Friends of the Earth's Michael Warhurst, who said the government should "force supermarkets to cut out waste by toughening up targets for recyclable packaging."

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