Any lingering doubts that environmental issues are topping the agenda for retailers right now were well and truly dispelled this week after a series of developments put green issues firmly in the spotlight.

The Environment Agency drew a stinging response from the British Retail Consortium after calling for retailers to reduce packaging and waste in its latest Spotlight Report.

The report said: "We are planning to develop a sector plan with the food and drink industry in 2006/07 to help take its environmental performance beyond compliance and into the wider area of resource efficiency and sound environmental management.

"As well as this, we want to produce a voluntary sector plan with the British Retail Consortium."

But the BRC warned that the agency should "stick to enforcement and stop preaching to the converted".

BRC environment director Nigel Smith said: "The Environment Agency is picking on the wrong target. Retailers are already taking this issue very seriously. Many of them have undertaken waste reduction ­programmes and the industry as a whole is looking at ways of making further improvements.

"Perhaps, the Agency would be better served pursuing other sectors that are not taking this issue as seriously as retailers."

Asda lent credibility to the BRC's comments by announcing a commitment to stop sending any waste produced by its 307 food stores to landfill sites within four years.

By 2010, the supermarket is aiming to recycle, re-use or compost everything that it disposes of at the back of its stores.

The retailer also pledged to redesign all of its own label packaging over the next 18 months, with the aim of reducing its weight and volume by at least 10%.

Meanwhile, there was some good news for retailers after it was revealed that they will not now be expected to take back used electrical goods under the new Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, due to come into force on 1 July 2007.

Instead, consumers will take old equipment to designated collection facilities, funded by industry - a move likely to lead to a rise in the price of many goods.