Supermarket packaging: How you can fight back

Andy McSmith
Thursday 25 January 2007 01:00

So you think that there is nothing you can do, as a lone consumer pitted against powerful commercial interests, about the annoying, wasteful and environmentally damaging volume of packaging you bring home with your shopping? But you are not alone. The Government is on your side. Britain runs the risk of huge EU fines unless it reduces the amount of waste it buries in landfill sites. Trading standards officers also object to excessive packaging because too much padding can give buyers a false impression of what they are buying. Here, then, are a few things you can do:

* If it is over-packaged, don't buy it. That the first and simplest advice from the professionals. If consumers won't buy it, suppliers will have to stop selling it in all that wrapping.

* If you do buy it, rip the packaging off and leave it on the counter. This suggestion was made by the Environment Minister, Ben Bradshaw. Supermarkets have to accept that if the packaging stays in their shops, it's their responsibility.

* Complain. But remember it is probably not the store manager's fault: the goods will have arrived over-packaged. The culprit is the company whose brand name is on the label.

* Ring 08454 040 506. That is a line operated by Consumer Direct, a government-funded organisation run by the Office of Fair Trading. They will want your contact details, and details of what you bought and where, and will pass the complaint to trading standards officers.

* If you run a small business involved in packaging goods, there is a number to call for free advice. Envirowise is a government-funded service that is dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses to waste less. They can be reached on 0800 585 794 and their website is at

How you can help

Do you have an example of absurd packaging? Have you been infuriated by the waste surrounding something you bought recently? If so, tell us and we will highlight it in The Independent and take it up with the companies concerned.

We will print more of your horror stories in tomorrow's paper. So please send your most outrageous and wasteful examples to:

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