Stationery retailer Office World has been fined by magistrates in Northamptonshire for using too much packaging for products sold via its website.
The company pleaded guilty to one offence at the court last week, but two other excessive packaging offences were also taken into account by the magistrates. Office World was fined 2,000 with 550 costs.
Office World pleaded guilty to the offence of filling only 7% of their packaging with the product
Trading standards officers in Northamptonshire carried out test purchases from the company in November 2003 and twice in January 2004. The officers found that the products ordered filled only a small part of the packaging used.
One of the items filled only 7% of the packaging used, while on the other two occasions the product filled only 19% and 29% of the packaging in each case.
Northamptonshire county council brought the case to the magistrates court under the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003. The regulations require that companies use the minimum amount of packaging – both in terms of weight and volume – to allow the necessary levels of safety, hygiene and product quality. Under the regulations, companies can be fined up to 5,000 for each offence.
While it has not been common so far for companies to face court action for excessive packaging, Cllr James Ashton of Northamptonshire county council said the Essential Requirements regulations could be an important tool for councils to force retailers to cut the amount of packaging used.
And, with the home delivery market expected to grow from about 18.9 billion to 34.5 billion by 2005 in the UK, Northamptonshire is keen to limit the amount of packaging waste that ends up in residents' bins.
Cllr Ashton said: “Companies have to ensure that things sent through the post arrive safely, but they can and must do this without using any unnecessary packaging. Reducing waste that has to be disposed of in the county is one of the council's priorities.”
“In terms of its weight, retail packaging makes up a quarter or more of all household waste. For the benefit of future generations, we all need to do all we can to reduce the waste we create, and to recycle as much as we can,” he added.
Northamptonshire currently recycles about 72,000 tonnes of material, but it sends about 250,000 tonnes of household waste to landfill each year. Under the government's Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, it will have to cut the amount of biodegradable material it sends to landfill each year to just over 211,000 tonnes by 2005/06 and just over 153,000 tonnes by 2010.