Family at supermarket checkout

Action: Leave unnecessary packaging at the checkout

Did you know you can leave unwanted, unnecessary packaging at the supermarket checkout?

Here’s why it can be a good idea

It might look and feel a little bit unusual, but there are actually many benefits from leaving some of the unnecessary plastic packaging that comes with your shopping at the checkout. In fact, in recent years there have been numerous consumer campaigns run in several countries aimed at getting people doing this en-masse, thus putting pressure on manufacturers and retailers to reduce the use of such packaging in the first place.

In recent years, the message about plastic and plastic pollution is definitely starting to get across and to their credit some supermarkets are responding – although cynics might suggest this is due to consumer and political pressures rather than through any genuine corporate concern about the pollution, death and damage single use plastic causes. Nevertheless, improvements are happening, but more needs to be done and what is being done needs to be done quicker.

Consumer pressure is a powerful tool in making this happen.

See, for example, the interesting article at

What to do

It is important to be respectful and polite to checkout staff, and not to leave a mess. It is also important not to hold up queues, especially at busy times. This will only make you unpopular with fellow consumers!

When you are packing your shopping into your bags or back into the trolley to take to the car, remove packaging that is quick and easy to remove, is clean, and easy to hand back to shop staff.

Politely tell the checkout operator “Thank you very much, but I don’t need this packaging, please can you take it back and make sure it is recycled or disposed of properly, your store should have facilities for doing this.”

Supermarkets are aware of the various campaigns around this action and have generally responded positively, with instructions sent to staff to take the packaging and make sure it is disposed of properly. Naturally, they want to avoid lengthy discourse at the checkouts, or adverse publicity. Many people who have taken this action report that others in the queues, and the shop staff themselves, acknowledge the problem and often say it’s a good idea!

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Ditch the outer wrapper!

Items that can be left can be cardboard as well as plastic and include (but are not limited to) for example:

  • Plastic around fruit and veg such as caulis, bananas and lettuce
  • Outer levels of double wrapped products (see pic)
  • Boxes around bottles
  • Plastic rings holding together packs of cans of coke or beer
  • Unnecessary boxes such as around soap also wrapped in plastic
  • Cling film around vegetables
  • Plastic bags around plants, flowers and herb pots
  • Onion and citrus fruit nets
  • The cardboard wraps around convenience meals
  • Cardboard wraps around multipacks of deserts and yoghurts
  • … anything you can easily remove and simply do not need!

Why take this action?

This action bring several benefits:

  • it brings the concerns of consumers about packaging to the attention of the retailers and manufacturers
  • most importantly of all, it puts pressure on them to change
  • it sends a message to everyone that witnesses the action taking place
  • it ensures that your packaging is recycled
  • it reduces the pressures on the home (domestic) waste disposal and recycling systems
  • store generated recycling waste is less contaminated than domestic waste, recycling is therefore more efficient.

Take action

This is a proactive step to take, but if plastic packaging – or wasteful packaging more generally – is something you feel passionate about, it is a very effective one.

Please let us know how you get on, tell your story and tag us in your social media posts.

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up to our bulletin using the form below, and thank you for your support.

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