Policy Position

FDF's Ambition to Reduce the Carbon Impact of Packaging

FDF members are encouraged to sign up to the Courtauld Commitment managed by (WRAP), to improve packaging efficiency.

Phase 1 of this Commitment aimed to design out the growth in packaging reaching households and then to achieve an absolute reduction in the amount of packaging reaching households by 2010 compared to 2006. Final results were reported in September 2010 (see below).

Phase 2, launched in 2010 aims to reduce the carbon impact of packaging by 10% by 2012 against a 2009 baseline. For those companies that wish to reduce the impact of packaging outside of the agreement FDF will continue to report their achievements in the form of case studies.

FDF members are also committed to working with partners, such as WRAP, to help identify the right amount and type of packaging for food and drink products, balancing the needs of the environment, product protection and food safety.

FDF members are dedicated to helping consumers better understand the role of packaging particularly in relation to preventing food waste and to reduce its impact by for example maximising the recycling and recovery both at home and on the go.

Delivering Our Ambition

In September 2010, WRAP announced that two of the three Courtauld Commitment 1 targets had been achieved – to design out packaging waste growth (zero growth achieved in 2008) and reduce food waste by 155,000 tonnes per year (exceeded with 270,000 tonnes per year less food waste arising in 2009/10 than in 2007/08).

A third target – to deliver an absolute reduction in the total amount of packaging over the same period – was not achieved. The main reason behind this was a 6.4% increase in grocery sales volumes since the agreement began in 2005 and participating retailers taking a greater proportion of the market for beer and wine.

The latest results published by WRAP for the second year of the Courtauld Commitment show that over the first two years of the agreement food and drink manufacturers along with other signatories collectively achieved an 8.2% reduction in the carbon impact of both primary and single use transit packaging equivalent to a saving of some 464,000 tonnes CO2e. These results suggest that signatories are well on track to meeting the three year target of 10% by end of 2012 and are all the more impressive given an increase in volume sales amongst signatories over the period.

Currently 23 FDF members have signed up to the BRC’s On pack recycling labelling scheme which aims to provide consumers with ‘standardised’ information on how best to recycle used packaging. Some members have taken other initiatives to help consumers capture used packaging arising at home or on the go. FDF and some of its members are also actively participating in the cross-industry Packaging and Resources Action Group which is working to improve the environmental, social and economic impacts of packaging and product systems.

To date the PRAG has produced two guidance documents: a booklet aimed at ensuring that councils, manufacturers and retailers communicate key messages about packaging and recycling; and a ‘plain language’ guide to designing packaging for recyclability, which has been produced for designers and packaging specifiers.

As part of our updated packaging ambition launched in December 2010 we were asked by members to give consideration to developing a campaign of engagement with consumers to help them both better understand the role of packaging and reduce its impact. We have made a start in taking this forward through participation in a core group of PRAG members who have formed a steering group with WRAP to agree key messages on the role packaging can play in preventing food waste. Where appropriate, these messages will be used within WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative.



Packaging plays an essential role in the safety, quality and shelf-life of food and in conveying important information to consumers about issues such as use, storage, nutrition, ingredients and origin. In terms of environmental impacts, it contributes relatively little to the total food footprint. But it is a very visible use of resources and one which needs to be kept under constant review to ensure an optimal balance between function and impact.

After optimising the amount of packaging used in the first place the next priority is to recycle or otherwise recover packaging once its has served its primary purpose of getting products to the consumer. In this area industry has been making significant progress. For example, under the Producer Responsibility Regulations the packaging chain as a whole recovered just under 7.3M tonnes of packaging waste in 2010, more than double that in 1998. Over the same period recycling/recovery has increased from 27% to 67%. FDF members have joined Valpak and similar schemes, to meet their legal obligations to recover and recycle packaging waste.

However, businesses in general can go further. In particular, they can help to reduce the amount of packaging going to households in the first place.


Last reviewed: 08 Mar 2013