Sainsburys recently became the first supermarket to face prosecution for excessive packaging. Trading Standards, dropped the prosecution (which related to a joint of beef) after Sainsburys drastically reduced the packaging around the beef and promised to reduce it further in future.

Sainsburys fell foul of the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations. The purpose of these Regulations is to ensure that manufacturers design packaging which:

  • minimises the volume and weight of packaging material used;
  • maximises the potential for recovery and recycling;
  • minimises any noxious or hazardous substances used.

Manufacturers have to keep records (for at least two years) showing that they have considered these principles at the design stage. Non-compliance with the Regulations is a criminal offence but the real damage may come in the expense involved in redesigning packaging and, as Sainsburys found out, negative publicity for your brand.

Coincidentally, a very good client of this firm had a run in with Lincolnshire Trading Standards a month or so before Sainsburys ran into difficulties. We prepared a thorough defence of our client’s packaging which satisfied Trading Standards that our client was complying with the Regulations.

As a general rule of thumb, your packaging should always be designed with the three Rs in mind (Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle). If you can demonstrate that you have borne these principles in mind at the design stage then you will find it easier to show that you have met the essential requirements of the Regulations.