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Sustainability

Tetra Pak urges Government to develop mandatory environmental labels for food packaging

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
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Local organic vegetables and fruits with carbon emission label made from recycled paper

Tetra Pak is asking the Government to make environmental labels mandatory on food and drink packaging.

The recommendation is one of several laid out in the company’s ‘Food Positive: Driving change to decarbonise the UK food system’ report, which aims to help the UK food system reduce its environmental impact.

The report was put together in collaboration with a range of industry experts from companies including Danone, WWF UK, Oatly and the Food and Drink Federation among others, who discussed the changes needed for the UK to decarbonise its food system.

According to Tetra Pak’s research, some 50% of consumers say a brand’s decarbonisation efforts or sustainability credentials impact what they buy.

The company says the Government should find ways to develop a better relationship with food and drink suppliers, distributors, and processors to help them find greener food sourcing, production, and distribution solutions. It says that innovation in the areas of processing and packaging should be prioritised in particular.

In the report, Joanna Trewern, Head of Consumption at WWF UK, recommends that environmental labels should not only include the climate impact of a product but also its impact on biodiversity loss.

Shaunagh Duncan, Head of Sustainability at Oatly, also stressed that the Government needs to: “make labelling mandatory and, more crucially, to standardise the methodology for that labelling.

Four major retailers – Sainsburys’ Morrisons, Tesco and Co-op – trialed an environmental labelling system online last summer after the Food Standards Agency stressed the need for the unified system was “urgent”.

A total of 10 other recommendations for the Government were made in the report. They include:

  • Looking at how green public procurement can be used to help access capital and R&D investments as well as public-private partnerships which can accelerate the production of technology that makes it easier for more people to access nutritious and sustainable foods
  • School meals standards must include requirements relating to sustainability and environmental impact. Children should also be able to access information about eating heathily and sustainably
  • New guidance for teachers needs to be created by the Department for Education to help them communicate with children on how important the food system is to tackling climate change, helping kids make better informed decisions around what they consume
  • Working together with industry to launch consumer awareness campaigns around how food waste and consumer food choices impact the planet, giving examples of how small changes to behaviour and diet can help the country meet climate goals
  • Targets need to be implemented around reducing waste in the food and drink sector, and obligatory food waste reporting should be introduced from 2024
  • Policymakers need to work with the food industry to create clear metrics that give consumers transparency around the carbon footprint of food and drink items
  • More technologies that tackle food waste – such as upcycling food and drink production side streams – should be developed using R&D financing
  • Better defined regulation on food and drink packaging recyclying which promotes the use of circular materials should be introduced
  • Policy and regulation should be brought into play which encourages packaging producers to use sustainably sourced and low carbon plant-based materials
  • A sufficient infrastructure for separate collection of used packaging must be created. The Government should also set a date for a post-launch review of materials included the UK Deposit Return Scheme, to allow for a wider range of materials to be included

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