The UK must show leadership on reuse, says CIWM



On World Refill Day, CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) is calling for the UK to take a leading role in promoting reuse as a sustainable solution to tackle plastic pollution and reduce waste.

In collaboration with ResourceFutures, CIWM recently submitted a response to a call for evidence from Policy Connect, alongside the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group and the Sustainable Resource Forum. The submission is part of CIWM’s efforts to investigate the role of reuse and refill packaging systems in establishing a more circular economy in the UK.

CIWM says that, as a Global Plastics Treaty is being developed, the UK must exhibit leadership on reuse, emphasising the significance of adopting a comprehensive and effective approach to responsible resource management, surpassing only material substitution.

The Institution is also calling for the UK government to implement a long-term, holistic strategy to bridge the “policy gap” on reuse. CIWM says this will provide certainty to all stakeholders within the value chain, overcome inertia, encourage investment and prevent the emergence of “stranded” assets.

Existing or proposed pieces of legislation, including The Environment Act 2021, extended producer responsibility for packaging, Scotland’s Circular Economy Bill, Wales’ Beyond Recycling strategy, and Northern Ireland’s proposed Circular Economy and Waste Management Strategies, offer avenues for effective reuse policy implementation, CIWM says.

The UK can pave the way towards a circular economy, setting an example for the rest of the world.

The organisation is also calling for reuse policy to extend beyond consumer packaging for food and drink and encompass other consumer products such as beauty, cleaning, and garden products. As well as non-consumer packaging within manufacturing, hospitality, and retail sectors, and address the challenges of online retail.

CIWM says reuse policy shouldn’t be limited to plastic packaging and should aim to reduce unnecessary material consumption overall and prevent unintended environmental consequences resulting from material switching.

It continues that reuse policy should build upon and complement recycling policy to ensure that products and systems are designed with end-of-life pathways and full life-cycle impacts in mind.

As reuse systems continue to develop, CIWM also says it’s essential to adopt a cautious approach to design to ensure that it effectively reduces overall environmental impacts and avoids any unintended consequences.

However, the successful implementation of reuse policies requires sufficient resources and support for national regulators and local authorities, CIWM says.

A CIWM spokesperson commented: “CIWM urges the UK government, industry stakeholders, and the public to seize the opportunity presented by World Refill Day to prioritise reuse as a critical strategy for waste reduction and plastic pollution prevention.

“By demonstrating leadership and implementing comprehensive and forward-thinking policies, the UK can pave the way towards a circular economy, setting an example for the rest of the world.”

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