Every year Britain sends 4 million tonnes of packaging to landfill sites, enough rubbish to fill Wembley Stadium three times over. In a UK first, Sainsbury’s will today announce that products in its organic range will be sold in revolutionary fully biodegradable packaging. Sir Peter Davis, Sainsbury’s Chief Executive, will make the announcement this Friday in a speech to the Soil Association National Conference in Cirencester.

Sainsbury’s own label organic fruit and vegetables will be sold in the biodegradable trays in all stores from the end of January 2001.

In compostable conditions the trays should fully biodegrade in about 14 days. The best way for customers to dispose of the trays is on a compost heap but the trays will also biodegrade in the garden or even a window box. Even the label is produced without a coating so that it is also biodegradable.

The packaging, which has taken eight years to perfect, uses an innovative method, baking dried potato starch mixed with water and cellulose fibres. Even the plastic laminate used to protect the inside of the tray is made from a polyester based material which is also totally biodegradable.

Sir Peter Davis, said, ” Customers want us to keep packaging to a minimum and where possible ensure it is environmentally responsible. We are committed to reducing waste and the biodegradable trays are an important breakthrough because packaging represents 20% of waste from UK households. It is estimated that the biodegradable trays could prevent 200 tonnes of packaging being sent to landfill each year. If this innovation proves popular with our customers, we would like to use these trays more widely. “

Sainsbury’s is also looking at other areas where biodegradable packaging could be used including a starch based netting material for organic oranges.

Notes to Editors:

  • Sainsbury’s has been involved with composting store food waste for 5 years and currently has 46 stores linked to 3 composting trials in Berkshire, East Anglia, East and South East London.
  • Between 1998 and 2000 Sainsbury’s cut the amount of its waste sent to landfill by 9,000 tonnes by composting, reduction at source and donation of food to charities.
  • Composting forms an integral part of the UK’s new waste strategy with councils being set a target of composting at least 25% of household waste by 2005.
  • More than 50% of local authorities are currently involved in composting schemes.
  • Sainsbury’s also actively encourages customers to recycle and has recycling points at over 340 stores nationwide.
  • Sainsbury’s has also introduced a number of schemes, such as bag for life and smartbox, designed to encourage customers to reduce the use of carrier bags and also to recycle them.
Sainsbury’s Environment Manager, Alison Austin, received an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to the environment and to sustainable development.