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The Insider: Packaging Is Rubbish
The Insider - S23E04 - Packaging Is Rubbish (13th July 2007) [PDTV (XviD)]
Businessman and environmental campaigner Mark Constantine calls for a consumer campaign against excessive packaging which hits hard in the pocket as well as being environmentally damaging.
Britons throw away more than six million tonnes of wrappers, boxes, bottles and jars every year and ninety-eight per cent think manufacturers and retailers need to do more to reduce the amount of packaging used. This packaging adds nearly £500 a year to an average family's food bill alone as well as having a huge environmental impact, as much of it is non-recyclable.
Mark Constantine has spent his entire business life trying to wean customers off unnecessary packaging. A former supplier to the Body Shop he founded Lush, now a multi-million pound business, which sells unwrapped bath and beauty products worldwide.
And he's not alone in his hatred of excessive packaging - the Women's Institute have put packaging at the top of their campaigning agenda. In The Insider, they join forces with Constantine to come up with the five worst examples of over packaging. At Mark's urging from the many examples on offer, the WI choose five products to complain to Trading Standards about under The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations, 2003.
Not only is it environmentally damaging - most of the packaging found in a weekly shop isn't recyclable and ends up in landfill where it takes up to 400 years to degrade - it's also costing shoppers more. Using his own experience and an everyday item such as shower gel, Constantine demonstrates how packaging often costs three times as much as the actual ingredients.
Although Lush's success shows that there are plenty of customers out there willing to give up fancy wrappers, boxes and bottles in favour of bare products, the vast majority continue to use the over-packaged products supplied.
One supermarket representative tells The Insider that packaging helps them provide goods more speedily, more cheaply and in better condition, but that they are trying to reduce both the amount of packaging and its environmental impact.
Some companies like Unilever are making an effort by launching ranges such as the Small and Mighty concentrated detergents, which have forty per cent less packaging and reduce the amount of lorries and fuel used in deliveries. But by and large, Constantine argues that far from seeing a reduction, we're seeing a packaging explosion - everything from pre-sliced, plastic-bag-wrapped apples to individual portions of ketchup.
In The Insider, Constantine reveals how it takes up to 120 individual sachets of milk, sugar and sauce to provide the same total as one large carton - and most of these sachets end up in landfill where the larger, more traditional bottles and cartons are recycled.
Constantine argues that we need a consumer revolution - from asking cafés to stop using these sachets, to boycotting supermarkets which over-package their products and returning to the markets and smaller shops where goods are sold loose or with minimal packaging. Unless we look back to the traditional way we shopped, he concludes, we'll continue to wrap up huge problems for future generations.
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