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Collaboration key to waste reduction

The voluntary approach is the proven way to achieve lasting waste reduction in Scotland.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Collaboration key to waste reduction

As the Scottish Government begins the consultation process for its new National Waste Strategy the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said notable successes, such as halving the number of single use carrier bags handed out, show how the voluntary approach achieves impressive results quickly - without the need for burdensome and costly legislation.

Rea

cting to the proposed strategy, the SRC welcomed its commitment to a collaborative and flexible approach and to joint working with retailers and the public to build on the significant achievements made since the last waste plan. The SRC also welcomed the move to more strategic planning of waste collection, recycling and re-processing facilities.

But the SRC is concerned that some of the ideas in the strategy, such as compelling stores to report detailed waste statistics, could become a costly bureaucratic burden.

Retailers know their customers best and can introduce tailored schemes. Some dramatic examples of lasting change have been achieved without alienating customers or driving up shop prices. Results include:

- Bag usage: Leading supermarkets and their Scottish customers virtually halved bag usage, meaning nearly 39 million fewer bags were handed out in May 2009 than May 2006. Across a year that equals at least 460 million fewer bags.

- Packaging reduction: In 2008, major food retailers halted growth in packaging, despite increases in sales and population, through the Courtauld Commitment.

- Boosting recycling: This year, leading retailers introduced a universal on-pack recycling label which, for the first time, provides customers with standardised information on whether packaging can be recycled. The single, industry-supported, label replaces the potentially confusing range of symbols previously used.

Ian Shearer, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "The voluntary approach is the most effective way to achieve lasting change. It allows retailers to target schemes in ways that work best for their own customers, engaging, not alienating them.

"Achievements like halving carrier bag use and eliminating packaging growth, despite sales and population increases, show how successfully habits can be changed by collaborative partnership without imposing regulation. Harnessing the power, innovation and enthusiasm of retailers - as well as their staff and consumers works.

"The commitment to carrots over sticks, expressed in the strategy, is welcome and we hope to see it followed through in practice. This will be the solution to further reducing waste.

"Cutting bag use is only one of retailers' green achievements. For example, supermarkets are delivering major reductions in landfill and in food waste - a bigger polluter than carrier bags - and have also been key partners in promoting recycling".

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