A system already exists to fine businesses for using excess packaging. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) require that all packaging placed on the market in the UK should be manufactured so that volume and weight are limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain necessary levels of safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance for the packed product.
These regulations are enforced by Trading Standards officers and a number of companies have already been prosecuted for using excess packaging.
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 also encourage businesses to reduce the amount of packaging they use. In addition, the Government are encouraging supermarkets to take greater responsibility for the waste they place on the market and for producers to reduce their waste. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is currently working with retailers through the 'Courtauld Commitment', a voluntary agreement which aims to halt packaging growth by 2008 and make absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010. 13 major retailers, representing 92 per cent. of the UK grocery sector, have already signed the agreement as well as three major brands.
In addition, DEFRA, working with WRAP and the devolved Administrations, has recently secured the agreement of UK retailers to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.
Consumers also have a part to play in encouraging producers to reduce unnecessary waste by choosing goods that are not heavily packaged, buying 'loose' rather than pre-packaged food and re-using their own bags.