Shops should be forced to provide containers for customers to dump packaging in before they leave the store, one of Parliament's senior environmentalists says.
The provision of recycling bins between checkout and exit would shift the onus of dealing with excess packaging from consumer to shop, argued the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group. He said such a move would soon focus the attention of supermarkets on removing unnecessary wrappers, bags and trays.
He also demanded stores introduce a compulsory deposit scheme for plastic bags. Although some retailers such as Sainsbury's and Tesco have announced schemes to reduce their use, up to 17 billion carrier bags are handed out by shops each year. Green groups say they represent a waste of oil and energy, are often dumped in landfill and choke birds and fish.
The Independent is campaigning against waste and seeking to highlight the environmental damage, from climate change to landfill, caused by the excessive wrapping of products.
Mr Baker said: "Supermarkets should be obliged to have an area between the checkout and the door so that people can leave their excess packaging. I think we should bring the problem back to the people who are selling it."
Backing the principle that the polluter should pay, the MP called for stores to run a deposit scheme where a 20p payment for a carrier bag would be refunded when the bag was returned on a subsequent trip. "If they got 10 billion plastic bags back the shops would have to find a way of dealing with them and they would soon find an alternative," he said.
The MP has become the latest political backer of The Independent's campaign, which last week secured support in the Commons. Backbenchers expressed concern about the increase in packaging and demanded to know what the Government was doing to tackle the problem. MPs also expressed concern about the dumping of plastic from British products in China, where workers are exposed to pollution and ill-health.
Sainsbury's organic food packaging criticised
* Katrina Collier e-mailed The Independent to complain about Sainsbury's organic vegetables. She said: "Why is the organic broccoli individually wrapped in plastic when the non-organic is not? Why is 95 per cent of their organic food individually wrapped in plastic? People who eat organic are capable of washing it. In other countries the fruit and vegetables are sold out of big boxes and you choose the amount you want."
Sainsbury's said: "The products are wrapped to protect them from damage, but the film used is recyclable. We are looking to change all our organic vegetables so that they are either loose on the shelf and tagged with a small label, or wrapped in compostable packaging made from sugar cane, maize or vegetable starch. All our organic produce will be in recyclable packaging by the end of the year. The organic broccoli is already wrapped in reycylable film, but it is not yet labelled as such. Obviously it's all very well to use recyclable wrapping, but that doesn't help if consumers are not aware of it, so we are starting to label all our packaging for guidance, to let people know if they can recycle or compost."