Retailers hope to end consumer confusion about recycling of packaging with a new on-pack logo.
Proposed by the British Retail Consortium in partnership with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), the mark will indicate whether an item of packaging is 'widely recycled', 'not currently recycled', or if consumers need to 'check locally'.
Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco, The Co-operative Group and Waitrose have already signed up to the scheme.
It is hoped the new logo will be in use early in the new year.
"This shows voluntary action can achieve more, and more quickly, than any legislation," said BRC director general Kevin Hawkins. "Retailers recognise they are uniquely placed to change customers' behaviour and help the government achieve its waste reduction targets.
"Ideally, material that's recyclable in one area would be recyclable everywhere but so far it isn't."
Local inconsistencies could not be allowed to thwart a standardised label that would help millions of customers and mean more of what could be recycled was collected, he added.
Meanwhile, the Green Alliance has called for all food packaging to be recyclable or compostable by 2013.
"Consumers want to be greener but need help to reduce their waste and carbon footprint," said Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance. "Twenty per cent of household waste is packaging and landfill is no longer an option."