Sainsbury's has pledged to cut its packaging by a third over the next six years, in a move it says will cut 50,000 tonnes of waste.

The retailer said customers had identified packaging as their top green issue, and that it would begin by tackling 10 packaging bugbears identified by its customers. 

The most visible change will be the removal of the cardboard box from own-label cereal but Sainsbury's is also cutting the amount of card used on pizzas and trialling a ready meal with details printed directly on to plastic, ending the need for a cardboard sleeve.

Other steps include cutting packaging on fruit and veg and selling more meat joints in vacuum-packed bags rather than plastic containers.

"Packaging is consistently at the top of our customers' list of concerns, which has encouraged us to set this ambitious target of a 33% reduction by 2015," said Sainsbury's head of packaging Stuart Lendrum.
"One example of how we're working towards this goal is replacing the lids on our strawberry punnets with heat-sealed film, saving 333 tonnes of plastic a year. We need to build on initiatives like this to drive packaging levels down."

The measures come just weeks after Tesco sharply reduced its target for cutting packaging. The retailer had committed to cutting packaging weight by 25% by 2010 but cut this target to 15% earlier this month. Tesco said in the course of its work to hit the target it had realised how complex an issue packaging was and had reassessed its targets.

"We have learned that reducing packaging by weight alone may not be the most beneficial or comprehensive measure," said a Tesco spokesman. "We have made great progress across our ranges, with a recent LGA report showing Tesco has the lowest food packaging levels of all major retailers.

"There is more to do and we continue to push on with over 3,600 packaging reduction initiatives. We have agreed an interim measure of a 15% reduction by 2010 with a longer-term target to come."