( 25th January 1999 )

TRADING STANDARDS services across the North of England have expressed concern over the wasteful use of materials in the packaging of some products.

Tests on 105 products showed that only nine made efficient use of resources in terms of the packaging. Two thirds of all the products were found to have 50 per cent or more packaging than was actually required for the product.

A total of 15 packs were found to contain twice the amount of packaging than would have adequately contained the product.

The survey has been compiled by the Northern Counties Trading Standards Group which is made up of Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland, Lancashire and West and North Yorkshire -representing more than five million consumers.

For the first time this year trading standards services across the country have been given new powers to require that all packaging should be kept to a minimum to ensure efficient use of resources.

The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 1998 makes it an offence for any importer or manufacturer to use an excessive amount of packaging.

A spokesman for the group said:

"The wasteful use of precious resources is one of the most serious problems we face today. Global warming is one consequence of such inefficient and wasteful practices. This survey has revealed some extremely worrying results which show that a large majority of businesses are not carrying out their obligations to ensure that they take every step possible to minimise the use of material in packaging.

"Businesses have been aware of these requirements for more than a year and should have taken steps to ensure they meet the requirements of these regulations. I hope that businesses will take note of this survey and now address the issue.

"Undoubtedly manufacturers are playing on the first impressions that a consumer gets from the packaging. This is regarded as an important factor in making a decision to purchase.

"However, while the packaging may be eye-catching, it may also have the effect of misleading consumers into thinking they are getting more for their money than they actually are.

"The European Community has addressed this serious issue and provided measures which will have an important part to play in ensuring that resources are used in a sustainable way.

"We all have our part to play in protecting the environment, not least businesses. Packaging is important to protect a product and in many instances to carry warning labels and other information. However, if consumers come across products which are wasteful of packaging then they should inform the local trading standards service who will work with the manufacturer to eliminate waste.


The findings of each authority were:

Authority Number of Products Supplied Number making efficient use of Resources
North Yorkshire 20 4
Lancashire 20 2
West Yorkshire 20 1
Northumberland 12 1
Durham 20 1
Cumbria 13 --