As part of a review of waste disposal, the Tory minister has plans to extend the voluntary Courtauld Commitment on grocery packaging to toys and other sectors of the leisure and entertainment industries.
Singling out the toy industry for criticism, she said: “My teenage children are constantly bringing items home in thick packaging, polystyrene and cardboard, and it’s really all about making the product attractive to buy rather than packaging it safely.
"If you go into an average toy shop and look how children’s toys are packaged, that’s very much about marketing – attractive boxes, large boxes, filled with usually fairly large quantities of packing materials before you get to the goodies at the heart of it."
Under the Courtauld Commitment, which was agreed five years ago, supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury agreed to start reducing the amount of packaging on own-label products by 2008. Further cuts are to be made by 2012 under the second stage of the agreement, but it does not cover many sectors of general retailing, such as toys.
"I think what we would really like to see in our review is an extension of the Courtauld Commitment which looks at retail packaging," said Spelman. "As a working mum, when I look at the refuse and what is being discarded, there is almost nothing that needs to go to landfill. So if you analyse what we are casting away, most of it can be recycled one way or another."
Under the 2005 Courtauld Commitment, food retailers and manufacturers agreed to "design out" packaging growth by 2008. Under a second phase of the voluntary agreement in March, to be achieved by 2012, 29 firms including Heinz, Danone and Warburtons agreed to a series of new targets, such as reducing the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10 per cent, household food and drink waste by four per cent and supply chain packaging by five per cent.