Retailers face fines over packaging

Food manufacturers and retailers may face tougher laws and serious fines for excess packaging if the government responds to calls from the Local Government Association (LGA) to tighten legislation.

The LGA said today only four firms have been successfully prosecuted for excess food packaging, despite a 1999 EU packaging directive that allows local authoritites to prosecute.

Too many loopholes mean the directive is not effective, said the LGA and the maximum fine of £5,000 is insufficient to deter big companies.

The LGA is calling for tougher regulations to ensure shops and manufacturers can not justify packaging on the basis of consumer acceptance and marketing.

The call comes amid claims that landfill sites in the UK will be full in nine years unless recycling rates are increased. Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, said: "Britain is the dustbin of Europe with more rubbish being thrown into landfill than any other country on the continent.

For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about environmental consequences or rising costs. Those days are now over.

"The choice is simple and stark. Either people throw away more rubbish into their black bins and they will damage the environment or they recycle more and help save the planet," she said.