Budgens retailer Andrew Thornton has launched a war on excess packaging by encouraging his customers to leave unwanted packaging at the checkout. Copying similar schemes in Germany, the retailer, who has stores in Crouch End and Belsize Park, London, has introduced bins so customers can strip products of packaging. Any packaging left by customers would be recycled by the store, Thornton said, but any packaging from the same product that was repeatedly left in the bins would be sent back to the manufacturer.

“Some packaging is being left behind, but the bins aren’t overflowing yet,” Thornton said. “As it’s a new idea, customers have to get used to it. We’ve got very environmentally aware customers in both stores and they are getting the hang of it.”

Packaging being discarded included pizza boxes, sleeves and boxes on ready meals and packaging on fresh produce, he said. Thornton admitted he was well aware that his influence as a two-store retailer on the manufacturers would be small.

“If a big retailer with hundreds of stores started doing this and suppliers started receiving piles of packaging, I’m sure they’d do something about it,” he said.

However, the idea has also been tried by the multiples without success. In April 2007 Asda introduced wheelie bins in the foyer of two stores for shoppers to return packaging, but the trial was ditched because of customer apathy.