Excessive supermarket food packaging is undermining householders’ efforts to recycle and adding to council tax bills, according to a new report.
Almost 40 per cent of supermarket food packaging cannot be easily recycled, according to a study by the Local Government Association.
The unnecessary packaging contributes to the estimated £1.8 billion councils will spend on landfill tax between 2008 and 2011, increasing the pressure for increases in council tax.
Researchers assessed the packaging in a typical shopping basket at eight supermarkets.
Waitrose had the heaviest packaging (802.5 grams) and Tesco the lightest (645.5 grams).
Lidl had the lowest level of packaging that could be easily recycled and Sainsbury’s had the highest.
Council leaders said that whilst people are recycling more rubbish their efforts are being held back by supermarkets.
They said supermarkets should pay towards recycling services so that more packaging can be recycled and council tax kept down.
Landfill tax costs councils £32 for every ton of rubbish they throw away, a figure that will rise to £48 a ton by 2010.
At current rates of landfill that will mean councils paying an extra £360 million in landfill taxes over the next two years.
Since the LGA first assessed the weight of food packaging in October 2007 it has been reduced overall, but the proportion that can be recycled has changed little.
Marks & Spencer is now the second best supermarket in terms of the weight of its packaging, having been second to last in the previous survey.
Cllr Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “At a time when we’re in recession and shoppers are feeling the pinch we have to move on from a world that tolerates cling filmed coconuts and shrink wrapped tins of baked beans.
“Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than almost any other country in Europe. “Taxpayers don’t want to see their money going towards paying landfill taxes and EU fines when council tax could be reduced instead.
“If we had less unnecessary packaging it would cut costs and lead to lower prices at the tills.”
Some other European countries already have a system under which companies contribute towards recycling services and household collections of food packaging.
The National Federation of Women’s Institutes has called for shoppers to boycott stores that wrap goods in too much plastic and paper.
However, the British Retail Consortium maintains that councils do not provide good enough recycling facilities.
The food and drink industry cut food packaging by an estimated 70,000 tonnes last year.
Examples included Britvic saving 1,670 tons of plastic a year by redesigning Robinsons squash bottles and Cadbury, Mars and Nestle cutting packaging on Easter eggs by a quarter.