Fruit and vegetables needlessly packaged, drink bottles that are too confusing or downright impossible to recycle; products likely to be littered and items packed with masses of materials have been given the dubious honour of winning DUMP Awards, for damaging and useless packaging.
Judged by an independent expert panel from academia, local government and the community sector, the DUMP Awards – now in their third year – highlight negative trends in packaging and labelling.
This year’s award winners are:
People’s Choice Award: Safeway and Coles supermarkets for needlessly packing fruit and vegetables, particularly organic products, on polystryrene trays and covering them with cling wrap.
Excessive Use of Material Award: Fisher-Price interactv children’s toy that, in addition to copious packaging, includes a recorded advertisement separate to the toy that is powered by 3 batteries. The product recommends discarding this part of the packaging, despite the fact the toy itself needs 3 batteries to run.
Poor Design for Recycling Award: Beverage companies packaging juices, flavoured milk and soft drinks in plastic and glass bottles completely covered in printed plastic sleeves which cannot be removed and contaminate recycling.
Misleading Labelling Award: Smith’s Stax packaging which displays three different confusing disposal messages including a graphic of rubbish bin with the instruction `feed me’ and elsewhere a `please recycle’ instruction.
Likely to be Littered Award: Seakist Lunch Kit pack features seven different small packaging parts (steel can, foil packet, plastic fork, serviette, two loose paper labels and a PVC plastic container) that are highly likely to be littered or at best dumped in the bin because no recycling instructions or information is provided.
Going Backwards Award for negative trends: Nescafe Short Black coffee jar. The smoky colour of the glass jar will be rejected for recycling; the lid contains two different plastics and a foam insert, none of which can be recycled, and the tamper-proof seals are made of metalised plastic which can’t be recycled.
Dump report author, Environment Victoria’s Zero Waste Campaign Director Jenny Henty said these appalling examples were sadly just the tip of the ice-berg of companies that are totally ignoring the industry’s own environmental guidelines.
“Manufacturers would be hard-pressed to come up with worse products for reuse, easy recycling or waste minimisation if they tried,’’ Ms Henty said.
“Australian consumers are trying to do the right thing at the supermarket, such as reusing green bags and embracing recycling, but are not being helped by excessive packaging, poor design and misleading recycling instructions.’’
Ms Henty said, internationally, retail giants including Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are responding positively to criticism with action to significantly reduce waste and emissions but Australia’s leading supermarkets were lagging sadly behind.
“America’s Walmart aims to create zero waste and has even used its buying power to pressure major companies such as Colgate to improve their packaging. In stark contrast, in Australia we are seeing our major supermarkets driving the excessive packaging push by demanding how suppliers present their products for sale including needlessly wrapping vegetables,’’ Ms Henty said.
Boomerang Alliance spokesman Dave West, a judge for the DUMP Awards, said many companies using packaging were in breach of the industry’s own environmental code of practice and it was clear the voluntary system was failing.
“It’s clear we can’t rely on our manufacturers and retailers to do the right thing by designing better products and minimising waste. Companies that are members of the waste club must no longer be responsible for policing their own performance,’’ Mr West said.
“If we are serious about tackling the scourge of waste we need State and Federal Governments to introduce mandatory systems, expel non-complying companies from the National Packaging Covenant and penalise those that are breaching the rules.’’
Ms Henty said in previous years a DUMP encouragement award had been handed out to acknowledge improvements in packaging – but none would be awarded this year.
“There’s very little to celebrate and we’re no longer going to honour products that are just a little bit better than the worst of the worst. There wasn’t even a gold prize handed out in the EPA-sponsored Sustainability Category at the Packaging Council of Australia’s own awards in 2006.’’
Download a copy of the DUMP report.