BANBURY: Six of the UK’s top DIY retailers and brands yesterday (Thursday 24 September) signed an historic agreement to reduce packaging and waste to landfill, under a new voluntary industry initiative led by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme).

Wickes, B&Q, Homebase, Argos, Focus and Henkel have agreed to work together for the first time to achieve a 15% packaging reduction and a 50% reduction in waste to landfill by the end of 2012, against a 2007 baseline. They will also look at ways of helping consumers to recycle more.

The launch of the new industry agreement comes hot on the heels of the launch of the Government’s new UK Packaging Strategy, Making the Most of Packaging, which advocated the voluntary approach to deliver packaging optimisation.

The Home Improvement Sector Commitment is based on the successful Courtauld Commitment model. Through this, the grocery sector, with support from WRAP, has already eliminated packaging waste growth in the UK and aim to deliver absolute reductions in household packaging and food waste by 2010.

This new, ground-breaking commitment will focus on reducing packaging through improved design and dealing with problematic packaging and product areas. The aim will be to come up with alternatives which are less bulky, easier to open and easier to recycle. It will target improved packaging systems to reduce product damage and wider adoption of re-useable systems in the supply chain and for home deliveries.

The Commitment will also examine how adopting concentrated products or refillable systems could help cut packaging. The agreement covers primary, secondary and tertiary packaging for own brand and directly sourced products.

WRAP CEO Dr Liz Goodwin said: “WRAP applauds the leadership that these companies have shown. This collective pledge by the UK’s leading home improvement retailers signals a concerted and consistent approach to delivering significant reductions in packaging and waste to landfill - while helping customers make positive product choices and recycle more.

“We encourage other home improvement retailers and brands to sign up.”

Environment Minister Dan Norris said: “We need to say goodbye to unnecessary and excess packaging across the board, and it’s great news that such a significant industry sector has signed up to play its part. Just like food waste and carrier bags, which might grab the headlines more often, reducing waste in the DIY sector is really important and this agreement will see a significant contribution to reducing waste to landfill. It’s great to see that the DIY industry is taking its responsibility in the war on waste seriously.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Scottish Government, Richard Lochhead, said: "The Scottish Government is committed to Zero Waste - this means sustainable design, preventing waste at source, high levels of recycling and reducing landfill to an absolute minimum. We welcome voluntary moves by retailers to work with us and consumers to achieve these aims and so I am pleased to support this agreement".

Environment Minister for Wales, Jane Davidson, added: “Whenever I talk to people about waste the most regular complaint I hear is about the amount of packaging there is on the goods we buy and use. The Welsh Assembly Government wants to see this radically reduced. In Wales, We have proposed a 70% target for recycling and composting all waste by 2025. However, we want see the amount of potential waste produced in the first place cut back. I am delighted to hear that different sectors of the retail industry are taking responsibility for their packaging and waste and agreeing to voluntary initiatives to cut their waste and reduce the amount they send to landfill.”