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Who says local councils are useless? Lincolnshire County Council's decision to launch a prosecution against Sainsbury's for over-wrapping its beef has provided a timely reminder to the supermarkets that they are still not doing enough to cut down on excessive packaging of their wares.

It is true that there has been some progress in recent years from the large retailers in this area. Marks & Spencer now charges customers for plastic bags. Others have encouraged the public to buy re-useable ones. The big supermarket chains have also made moves to cut down on their packaging. Sainsbury's yesterday unveiled its new line of bagged breakfast cereal.

But the reality is that movement remains too slow. Twenty per cent of household waste is packaging, and more than half of this comes from groceries. Despite the tendency of supermarkets to trumpet their achievements in cutting waste, a voluntary target for a 50 per cent reduction in plastic bag use was missed last year. And a great deal of packaging remains un-recyclable.

Sainsbury's is said to be shocked by Lincolnshire council's legal action. That is a good thing. Sainsbury's – and the wider supermarket sector – was in need of a wake-up call on waste.

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