The IGD's waste report, published last week, showed just what a nation of wasters we are. More than 27 million tonnes of domestic rubbish were sent to landfill in the past year, almost 20% of which was food waste, it said.

Consumers are finally wising up to the impact household waste has on the environment and starting to make greener purchasing decisions, according to the report. Retailers and manufacturers that help shoppers are likely to gain competitive advantage, it suggests. But to what extent will retailers and manufacturers be able to influence consumer behaviour beyond the four walls of the store, and in people's homes? And to what extent should they?

The role supermarkets play in people's lives places them in an ideal position to launch customer-facing initiatives to reduce waste, suggests the report. Retailers could provide tools, both on and offline, to help consumers better plan their shopping to reduce duplicate purchases.

They could also introduce time temperature indicator labels to help minimise unnecessary wastage and advise on how to use leftovers by using recipe cards, for instance.

Manufacturers could develop smaller portion sizes, extend the shelf life of the products and produce more efficient resealable packaging to reduce the amount of food that is unnecessarily thrown away each day, it adds.

Consumers will be receptive to help, believes Gerardine Padbury, senior business analyst at IGD.

"Many shoppers will be favourably disposed to products or innovations that help them to reduce food waste," she says. And they will not be the only ones to benefit. "As well as a boost to profit margins, retailers and manufacturers can also benefit from increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced brand loyalty."

The government argues that supermarkets and manufacturers are best-placed to help because they interact with consumers at a personal level. However, not everyone agrees, and some feel the government is keen to endorse this approach because it absolves local authorities of some of their of responsibility for waste disposal.

"A multi-stakeholder approach is required," says a spokeswoman at the FDF. "Manufacturers are already doing quite a lot in this field but it is not down to us exclusively. The government and consumers must also play their part."

This is also the view of the BRC. "Many retailers are already doing a lot to reduce waste, and there is a limit to what they can actually achieve on their own," says a spokesman, who says that providing recipe cards would be a positive move, but greets other suggestions in the report, such as extra labelling, with caution.

"There is already an issue over labelling, and what kind of information retailers should and shouldn't supply to customers," he says.

"There is a very real risk consumers could start drowning in advice, so the bits that actually matter fail to get through."

Not all consumers will be amenable to advice, he says, adding that it would be highly intrusive if retailers began prompting customers to check cupboards and fridges before a visit to the shop.

"At the end of the day it's for the customers to make their own judgment on what to buy. Anything else is just patronising," he says.

In short, there's plenty retailers and manufacturers can and should do to help shoppers reduce waste. But they shouldn't be expected to shoulder all the responsibility - or absolve government or consumers of theirs.