UK Environment Minister Elliot Morley has launched an £8m (US$14.7m) Innovation Fund to stimulate innovative packaging design in a bid to cut landfill waste.

The Waste Minimisation Innovation Fund will see WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) working closely with major retail partners and their supply chains to deliver real change, with the aim of significantly reducing post-consumer household food and packaging waste.

"This is a major step forward in reducing the 30 million tonnes of household waste that is produced every year.  I am delighted that the retail sector has thrown its support behind this groundbreaking initiative. I am looking forward to seeing high quality projects which bring savings to retailers and their suppliers, and reduce the waste householders have to throw away," said Morley.

Research undertaken by WRAP shows that over 40% of household waste which ultimately ends up in landfill, originates from purchases from retail supermarkets and convenience stores. The aim of the Innovation Fund is to reduce this waste by 310,000 tonnes by March 2006. To put the target into context, this is approximately equivalent to the total amount of household waste collected from the streets of Birmingham annually.

"Many consumers are becoming more aware of how much rubbish they are generating. They are recycling more and more, but there is relatively little they can do to control how the goods they buy are presented and packaged. Supermarkets and their supply chains have a major influence on what ends up in the household dustbin, and WRAP is looking forward to working with them to develop innovative products and packaging to reduce waste," said Jennie Price, chief executive of WRAP.

David Reid, non-executive chairman of Tesco and vice president of food and grocery think tank IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution), welcomed the innovation fund.

"Innovation is key to growth and profitability for both retailers and suppliers and this fund will help us to develop new packaging and product designs whilst also minimising household waste," Reid said.

Two recent features investigate the subjects of packaging and recycling:

Open with care: How user-friendly is modern food packaging?

What a waste: Recycling rises up the food industry agenda