Recycling and packaging industries still have “significant doubts” over Defra producer responsibility proposals – ESA

Prominent organisations across the UK’s circular economy value chain have today expressed continued concern about Defra’s proposals for dealing with packaging waste collections from businesses across England under the emerging new extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) and thirteen other national trade bodies and associations representing packaging manufacturers and recyclers, have written to government today (Thursday 16 September) for a second time to voice remaining “significant doubts” about the current proposals to deal with packaging waste from businesses under the new Resources and Waste Strategy, and to urge further engagement between Defra and industry to develop a better solution.

Industry stakeholders believe that proposals to incorporate packaging waste from businesses within the EPR regime have not received sufficient consideration to date and have expressed concern about a lack of transparency around the data underpinning Defra’s analysis – which have not been shared with industry despite repeated requests.

EPR will make the producers of packaging responsible for the net costs associated with collecting, recycling or disposing of packaging materials once discarded by the consumer. Local authorities are responsible for collecting most packaging waste discarded in the home or by individuals in public spaces and, under the new regime, will be recompensed for the net costs associated with this activity under a new payment mechanism. However, the situation is more complicated for recompensing individual businesses for the household-like packaging collected from their premises, since individual businesses are responsible for their own waste collection and disposal solutions and can choose a service provider that best meets their needs.

Engagement with industry sectors has already proved both useful and essential with the emergence of possible solutions, but more time is needed to get this right.

Defra has presented four options to tackle this challenge, but the ESA believes none of the options are viable across the diverse range of businesses in the packaging value chain. In particular, because of the competitive nature of the business waste collection market, and the vastly different needs of small businesses compared with larger multi-location organisations, a one-size-fits-all solution is very unlikely to deliver an efficient solution or the government’s intended environmental outcomes.

As such, more time is needed for government to engage with industry to design an appropriate and equitable solution which will deliver the intended benefits and not undermine public confidence in recycling.

One such solution that has been counter-proposed by industry is a voucher system which would allow businesses to apply annually for a monetary voucher to subsidise the collection of their obligated packaging by an accredited waste collector. However, industry believes more time is needed to assess the viability of this and other options against robust data and real-life conditions.

Jacob Hayler, ESA Executive Director, said, “If Defra was to proceed with any of its current proposals it would risk disrupting other waste streams, with potential negative ramifications across the whole sector. Engagement with industry sectors has already proved both useful and essential with the emergence of possible solutions, but more time is needed to get this right. Discussions between the department and industry stakeholders on business payments must be allowed to continue until the end of the year, providing an opportunity to collaboratively work up a suitable alternative.”

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