U.K. Environmental Secretary Sets Sights on Toy Packaging

U.K. Environmental Secretary Sets Sights on Toy Packaging

Toys - CC license by Flickr user Fortyseven

Toy makers and other general retail product manufacturers could be the latest targets of U.K. packaging reduction efforts, according to comments make by the country's new Environment Secretary.

Caroline Spelman, who oversees the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), told the Independent that some groceries and toys are wrapped up in too much packaging, saying, "I'm a working mum who has to cook supper and it frustrates me that so much of what I purchase to feed the family is double- or treble-wrapped, quite often in tough plastic, and you do slice your finger trying to get into it. While we don't want damaged goods or anything which will compromise the safety of food, I do question how much packaging is necessary and how much is marketing."

About toys she said, "My teenage children are constantly bringing items home in thick packaging, polystyrene and cardboard, and it's really all about making the product attractive to buy rather than packaging it safely."

In a speech about the future of the government's approach to waste, she said that Defra is starting to review all existing waste policies in the U.K., and although she did not specifically call out toy companies, she said, "I want business and manufacturers to redouble their efforts to drive down the waste generated by production and the amount of packaging they use - some of which is, if we're honest, actually marketing material."

The voluntary Courtauld Commitment is the main agreement driving packaging changes by supermarkets, food manufacturers and others in the U.K. In the first phase of the Commitment, agreed upon in 2005, supermarkets agreed to reduce the amount of packaging for their products. The second phase, launched earlier this year, set new goals for reducing packaging-related carbon emissions, food waste and supply chain waste.

Spelman's statements were met with opposition from the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) and the Packaging Federation, which told Packaging News that toy packaging should not be a primary target since the bulk of toys sold in the U.K. come from out of the country, meaning retailers have little control over the amount of packaging used, and that toys represent only about 0.3 percent of all packaging.

 Toys - CC license by Flickr user Fortyseven