Thursday, 23 September 2010

WRAP them up

There's a quango out there called WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) which has today released a report about its successes. Except their successes appear to be pretty meagre. If the Government wants to cull another quango to save money then I would suggest that WRAP could be a prime target.

The aims of WRAP are absolutely fine. They want to reduce excess packaging on food and other goods that we all buy. They also want to cut down on the amount that we throw away.

But the report they have produced today indicates that they have failed one one of their three key aims of cutting the amount of packaging produced and sold through supermarkets. The reason - they claim - is that people were buying more stuff from supermarkets because of the recession and that actually the amount of packaging has been cut by 4%. Well that sounds fair enough - except that this is 4% over five years and we weren't in a recession for at least half that period.

On a more positive note, WRAP is keen to point out that the UK grocery sector had reduced food and packaging waste entering the waste stream by more than 1.2 million tonnes. Just two problems with this stat:

- There's no context given here so we have no idea whether this is a drop in the ocean or a substantial proportion of the previous total.

- It's actually consumers buying and throwing away less that is responsible for this cut - rather than the supermarkets themselves who have magnificently managed to achieve their target of zero waste growth (ie they have stopped producing more and more excess packaging).

So WRAP had three aims. They failed to achieve one, one is the result of us consumers throwing away less and the final one was a pretty pathetic target in the first place.

I couldn't find out how much taxpayer's money WRAP has spent to achieve this magnificent result of less than 1% cut in packaging per year, but I would bet that it is quite a substantial amount. The quango has eight executive directors and eleven non-execs including Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson. A similar (or possibly better) result could be achieved for far less cash if someone else was given the job. Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson is one who has done more than most to highlight the issue with her annual survey of excess packaging on Easter Eggs.

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