WI to renew campaign against packaging

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The Independent Online

Women's Institute members plan to invade supermarkets again in protest at the excessive packaging of everyday products.

Last June, WI members saved their packaging for a week and returned it to the stores where they did their shopping with the message: "Here, you deal with it."

With the political temperature on waste rising, the National Federation of Women's Institutes is considering "further action" to keep up pressure on the stores to eliminate superfluous bags and trays.

A day of action in 2007 was "quite possible," the WI said, but plans would be kept secret to surprise retailers. Members of the WI were with The Independent when we went shopping for absurdly over-wrapped products at the launch of our Campaign Against Waste. The silliest example was a shrink-wrapped swede.

Yesterday, Amy Bick, WI head of public relations, said: "The members have really embraced the campaign and, from our point of view, the supermarkets have been listening to us.

"We went to our local Tesco the other day and it was encouraging to see how many changes had been made. A lot of the food was in compostable containers but we still found some really bad examples of unnecessary packaging, like sweetcorn in plastic."

Since The Independent began its campaign last month, Tesco's chief executive Sir Terry Leahy has revealed Britain's biggest store chain is exploring new initiatives on packaging and Asda has begun a trial of selling almost all fresh produce loose.

Meanwhile, a further three MPs have signed the Early Day Motion tabled by the Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East) backing our campaign, bringing the total to 57. By contrast, a Labour MP, Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central), has tabled an amendment condemning the "hypocrisy" of The Independent for wrapping weekend supplements and free DVDs in polythene.

Some readers have also complained about the wrapper, with one presuming we would not tackle the matter in print. In the spirit of openness, we would like to say: "We understand your concern and are trying to find a solution."

Paul Little, of The Independent's marketing department, explained: "At present, wrapping supple-ments, DVDs, books and so forth is the only method we have of ensuring that the reader gets everything that they have paid for.

"However, we have been looking at more eco-friendly wrapping options."

A biodegradable wrapper made from starch is one of these options, and we are committed to finding a solution as soon as possible.

The swaddled sausage

* By tradition, butchers wrapped sausages in paper before handing them over. In the 21st century, sausages languish on supermarket shelves coddled on trays and swaddled in plastic.

If anything sums up the needless packaging so pervasive in stores, it is the simple banger, according to Independent reader Janet Wood.

Ms Wood, of Heathfield, East Sussex, takes issue with the wrapping of Waitrose's English sausages, made from free-range pigs. "These used to be simply wrapped in cellophane but in an effort to make them more up-market they are now packaged on a black plastic tray 22cm x 13cm with a clear plastic cover and cardboard sleeve like the more expensive pork and herb ranges," Ms Wood wrote.

"Why can't all their sausages be wrapped in cellophane as before?"

Waitrose conceded that the packaging was needlessly voluminous. A spokeswoman promised: "We will shortly be changing the packaging for our sausages and bacon - with the aim of reducing the volume of packaging."

But she added that Waitrose had reduced packaging relative to sales by almost a quarter between 2002 and 2005.

Do you have an example of foolish and irritating packaging? Whether groceries or gadgets, contact us and we will confront the company concerned. Email: waste@independent.co.uk

Alternatively, lobby your MP to back the Early Day Motion supporting our campaign.