FACED with a trolley full of products covered in unnecessary packaging, many shoppers may have felt the urge at some point to rip it all off and leave it in the supermarket in protest.

There's plenty on supermarket shelves to get annoyed about – packages containing a dozen more plastic packages, Easter egg boxes three times the size of the actual eggs, and – perhaps worst of all – the impossible to open, heat-sealed "clamshell" packaging.

It all amounts to a huge amount of plastic and cardboard, discarded in recycling containers just minutes after shoppers get home, usually never to be used again.


But last week, one environmental group in Monmouthshire decided to take action against the tide of needless packaging.

With the blessing of the local Tesco store, volunteers from Transition Chepstow invited shoppers to cast off their unwanted packaging and leave it at the supermarket for recycling.

Graham Eele, co-ordinator of the group's Plastic Free Chepstow campaign, said: "295 billion pieces of plastic are thrown away in the UK every year, and most of these are used for just a few minutes. We wanted to draw attention to just how much plastic is involved in the average shopping trip."

The volunteers collected several hundred pieces of packaging – things like trays and bags from pre-packed fruit and vegetables, bags from multi-packs of snacks, wrap from kitchen rolls and packaging from hardware items. They talked to more than a hundred shoppers, many of whom were surprised by the sheer volume of plastic in their trolleys.

"We had a fantastic response from shoppers," Mr Eele said. "Many of them felt really strongly about the issue, and took the opportunity to make suggestions to Tesco. For example, many people commented that more fruit and vegetables should be sold loose with customers encouraged to bring their own bags.

"We are grateful to Tesco for giving us this opportunity. We'll be sharing customers’ comments with them and look forward to a dialogue about reducing plastic."

Transition Chepstow also organises monthly litter-picks in the area as part of its crusade against the use of single-use plastics.

– What can you do?

The group offered the following tips to people who would like to cut down on plastic packaging:

  • Buy loose fruit and vegetables where possible using your own bags.
  • Bring your own containers for meat, fish and deli products.
  • Try to avoid over-packaged items.
  • Avoid throwaway cups and water bottles.
  • Tesco are happy to accept plastic film etc for recycling.
  • Tell the supermarkets how you feel.
  • Tell your AM what you think – call for reductions in single-use plastic, a deposit return scheme and a "latte-levy" on single-use coffee cups.