Tougher recycling rules for packaging could see food manufacturers switching from glass and plastic containers to bio-degradable products.
The government has unveiled proposals to enable Britain to meet stringent new targets set by the European Commission.
Due to come into force in the UK in January, the aim is to double the amount of packaging recycled across the EU. It will impact on businesses with annual turnovers of more than £2m and which handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging.
Return and collection systems will be introduced so that by December 2008 at least 60% of packaging waste will be recovered or incinerated.
Producers will have to buy Packaging Waste Recovery or Export Recovery Notes from re-processors and exporters.The proposals have been set out in a consultation paper by Defra, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The deadline for responses is October 3.