Environmental activists protested against “pointless plastics” by handing back packaging to stores including Tesco, Co-op and Marks & Spencer.

Wanstead campaigners joined a “peaceful, respectful” nationwide protest that has featured on the BBC documentary ‘War on Plastic’ presented by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani.

Campaigners returned “pointless plastic packaging” to the supermarkets and wrote messages demanding change on the items to get their point across “as loudly as possible”.

Susie Knox, co-ordinator of Campaign for a Cleaner, Greener Wanstead, added: “Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year. Our supermarkets are producing vast quantities of the stuff and offering shoppers almost no alternatives.

“Bearing in mind the widely publicised harm caused by plastic pollution, it’s astonishing that we’re in a situation where TV documentaries are having to run campaigns like #OurPlasticFeedback to address the problem.

“All supermarkets and other businesses should be selling products without packaging wherever possible, and switching to materials that are easily recyclable here in the UK if packaging is absolutely necessary.”

Campaigners said there was “positive engagement” from the shops, which took the items and agreed to recycle them.

Cllr Paul Donovan, who represents Wanstead Village ward, said: “This was a good start, the supermarkets seem keen to continue the dialogue. They are keen to recycle, which is good, but the real challenge of #Ourplasticfeedback is not to produce the plastic in the first place.

“It is a scandal that supermarkets charge more for loose items in paper bags than they do for the same product wrapped up in plastic – this cannot go on. We are literally choking ourselves and the planet with these patterns of behaviour, they have to stop.”

The plan is that the conversation will now continue to see what can be done to get single-use plastics eliminated from Wanstead’s high street.

Hugh Fearneley-Whittingstall has since liked one of the campaigner's posts on Twitter, showing his support for the local campaign.

Michael Fletcher, Co-op Retail chief commercial officer, said: “How we do business really matters. The world is experiencing a climate crisis and we need to work together to avoid it. Accelerating action is the only way to mitigate and reduce impacts on our natural world, and to ensure stable food supply chains in the future.

“A rolling set of publically available and reviewed stretching, short term targets, are imperative if we are to hold ourselves to account to achieve our collective longer-term ambitions. Making sure that we have a natural environment we are proud to pass on to future generations needs action to be taken now.”

A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: “At M&S, we believe plastic plays an important role in preserving food and preventing waste. However, we know there are challenges with the use of plastics and we’re taking clear action to play our part as a business by using less plastic and reusing or recycling any we do use. 

“We’ve already removed 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and will remove another 1,000 tonnes this year, while we’ve also replaced the plastic cutlery given out in our stores with wooden alternatives and plastic straws for paper versions.

"To help our customers do their bit, we’ve phased out 1,700 tonnes of difficult to recycle black plastic packaging and have started rolling out our plastic take back scheme, in which we’ll turn the hard to recycle plastics from our customers into playground equipment.” 

Tesco were contacted for comment.