Packaging producers to pay full recycling costs under waste scheme

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Government strategy to make ‘polluter pay’, with penalties for difficult to recycle items.

Retailers and producers of packaging will be forced to pay the full cost of collecting and recycling it under the government’s new waste strategy.

Supermarkets and other retailers could be charged penalties for putting difficult to recycle packaging – such as black plastic trays – on the market as part of the strategy, which aims to make the “polluter pay”. They would be charged lower fees for packaging that was easy to reuse or recycle.

As the Guardian revealed last month, costs to retailers and producers will soar under the plans, to between £500m and £1bn annually.

It will see the producers of the waste cover the full costs of recycling and collecting it. Currently the taxpayer, through local authorities, funds 90% of the costs of recycling and businesses just 10%. The scheme could also see retailers and producers pay for the cost of clearing up the litter created by their waste and for the enforcement of the scheme.

Launched on Tuesday by the environment secretary, Michael Gove, the government’s waste strategy embraces leading EU policies on the circular economy just as the UK prepares to quit the bloc.

As well as forcing producers to pay millions of pounds more towards the collection and recycling of their packaging waste, the strategy tackles plastic pollution and food waste.

It aims to:

 Introduce a tax on single use plastic with less than 30% recycled content.

 Consider banning plastic packaging where there are alternatives.

 Legislate to allow government to specify a core set of materials to be collected by all local authorities and waste operators.

 Commit to a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans.

 Ensure all households get food waste collections.

 Try to build a stronger UK recycling market.

But critics are angry at the time it is taking the government to implement measures such as the deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans.

“It is great to see further commitments to introduce a deposit return system for cans and bottles, which is tried, tested and proven to boost recycle rates to over 90%,” said Samantha Harding, litter programme manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

“However, the rollout of such a system may not happen for another five years. With the Scottish government expected to introduce its deposit system by 2020, and the packaging producers – who would pay for the system – wanting it to be UK-wide, why does our government think it would take a further three years to get in line?”

The government says the new strategy will consider “appropriate enforcement measures” targeted at the public, to nudge people to “do the right thing.”

“Together we can move away from being a throwaway society to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource,” said Gove.

“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.”

The government will put the plans for making producers pay for the net cost of the collection and recycling of their packaging out to consultation shortly. This type of system is already in place in other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The strategy states: “‘Extended producer responsibility’ (EPR) is a powerful environmental policy approach through which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-use stage. This incentivises producers to design their products to make it easier for them to be re-used, dismantled and/or recycled at end of life.

“It has been adopted in many countries around the world, across a broad range of products, to deliver higher collection, recycling and recovery rates.”

The strategy aims to see less of the UK’s waste being exported abroad – a market which is open to abuse and fraud and in crisis after China banned the import of plastic waste and other countries started to follow suit.

Simon Ellin, of the Recycling Association, welcomed the strategy. He said: “It ticks most of the boxes we have asked for – full cost producer responsibility, consistent local authority collections and labeling, food waste reductions, focus on waste crime.

“There is a little bit too much consultation involved before delivery and therefore the chance the polices could get watered down.”

The Green Alliance was also positive. A spokesperson said: “The positive steps include ensuring producers are made to pay for the waste they create and giving households access to the consistent, high-quality recycling and food waste collections that we have been calling for. These proposals must now translate into policy, fully supported by other departments and sufficient funding. And the warm words on resource efficiency must become concrete action.”

But Mary Creagh, chair of the environmental audit committee, said there was not enough immediacy about the policies.

“The government appears to be kicking the waste can down the road yet again. The plastic bottle deposit return scheme promised in 2018 won’t be ready until 2023.

“Textile waste piling up in landfill won’t be tackled until even later. With scientists warning we have just 12 years to tackle climate change, this strategy is too little, too slowly.”


This was written by Sandra Laville for The Guardian.  To see the original version of this article, please click HERE.

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