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WRAP launches first eco forum of its kind in UK

THE first forum in the UK to tackle carbon footprint across the lifespan of every day goods has been launched by WRAP.

More than 80 organisations are to join the new forum aimed to take the lead on addressing environmental and sustainability issues that arise from making and selling products.

The Product Sustainability Forum brings together retailers, suppliers, environmental charities, academics and the government who will research greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, water use, reliance on raw materials, product-related waste and packaging.

The PSF will take a focussed approach to researching, measuring, communicating and reducing the environmental impact of a range of consumer goods - from dairy products and DIY materials to soft drinks and tinned groceries – with a view to reducing the environmental impact of consumer goods across their lifespan. 

The forum was set up by WRAP in response to discussions with industry experts and governments, and is chaired by the organisation’s chief executive, Dr Liz Goodwin. She said: “The scale of the challenge is enormous. For example, the British Retail Consortium estimates that the retail sector alone accounts for around 3.5% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and the retail supply chain, for more than 30%.

“Many companies already measure the environmental impact of their products but until now, this has always been done in isolation, and the methodology and results have not been shared. By working together, we have a real opportunity to minimise the effect our activities have on the planet.”

The forum is the first organisation of its kind in the UK, and demonstrates the desire and determination that exists to look at better ways of managing resources. The approach marks a shift away from simply concentrating on a single issue like packaging, towards a focus on a product’s whole life.

The PSF believes that improving the environmental performance of products will deliver a number of benefits- reducing costs, improving resource efficiency, and securing the future supply of products for consumer use.

“With the current focus on the challenges of sustainability being discussed at the Rio+20 Summit this week, and the UK’s own carbon targets very much in mind, the group will play a critical role in both driving down CO2 emissions and reducing other environmental impacts of the way we resource, manufacture and sell goods,” said Dr Goodwin.

The forum has already started assessing the evidence, and identifying grocery and DIY products where there’s most opportunity to improve environmental performance.

“This is not only about identifying the products themselves, but also where in the lifecycle any action would have the most effect, the PSF vision is that everyday products should be designed with resource efficiency in mind, minimising environmental impact and encouraging sustainable consumption and production."

“With more than 80 organisations supporting these goals, along with the support from all the UK governments, we’re determined that to make progress towards this vision a reality.

“It’s pretty unusual – if not unique – to see so many major organisations and brands working alongside one another and sharing best practice in order to find ways of making better use of all our resources. This demonstrates just how seriously organisations are taking the issue of sustainability and the impact of their manufacturing and retail processes.”

The forum is backed by major organisations such as Kellog’s, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, the British Retail Consortium and UK supermarket chains as members.

Bob Gordon, head of environment at the British Retail Consortium, called the project “truly ground-breaking," and described it as helping “businesses find the best ways to manufacture, transport, store, display and dispose of a wide range of products so they have the smallest possible impact”.

The Scottish government and the Welsh government also support the forum. 

Facts & figures

  • On average for every tonne of products we consume, 10 tonnes of fuel and materials have been used, rising to 100 tonnes if we include water.
  • In the last 30 years, the amount of basic resources (fossil fuels, metals, minerals, timber and other crops) that we extract from the environment has increased by 50% and is projected to rise by a further 40% in the next 20 years. The majority of these resources were not recaptured.
  • Of all of the resources flowing into the global economy (materials and energy) less than 2% was retained in the economy for more than six months, with the rest going to waste. (Biffa - mass balance studies from 1998 – 2006)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that in most countries, household consumption, over the lifecycle of products, accounts for more than 60% of all of the impacts of consumption.
  • Earlier UNEP studies suggest that a doubling of wealth leads to 80% higher carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions
  • In 2009 UK households dispose of 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink waste every year (source: WRAP; 2011 figs show this figure has fallen to 7.2m). Food waste leads to additional waste – of the water and energy that was used to grow and process those foods. It also creates greenhouse gas emissions, and has a range of other environmental impacts.
  • The water footprint of the UK calculates the amount of water used to produce goods and services consumed in the UK. Previous research by WWF-UK (Chapagain & Orr 2008) says the water footprint of the UK is 102,000 million cubic metres of water per year. WRAP/WWF research shows that, based on the 2009 food waste figures, that the water footprint of avoidable food waste is 6,200 million cubic metres per year- nearly 6% of all our water requirements
  • It’s estimated that avoidable food waste is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of 20 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year, accounting for the whole lifecycle. Avoidable food waste represents approximately 3% of the UK‟s domestic greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast to the water footprint, approximately two thirds of emissions associated with food waste occur within the UK.

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About Charlie Kennedy

Having studied Law, English and Philosophy, I went travelling to India for 6 weeks working in orphanages and in a leper colony. I came home and decided to study Journalism. Starting my third and final year this September, I have just been given the fanta... read more