Building on commitments made in the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy published in December, the 12-week consultations provide detail on plans to make packaging producers “pay the full cost of dealing with their waste” and to introduce a “consistent set of materials” collected across England from households for recycling. It also aims to bring in a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and bottles.
The changes will make up a key part of the government’s upcoming Environment Bill, to be introduced early in the second session of Parliament.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste. That’s why we are leading the way to move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society and drive up domestic recycling.
“Through our plans we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling.”
Subject to consultation, householders will see the existing “complicated recycling system” simplified, Defra says. A consultation has launched on a consistent set of recyclable materials to be collected from all households and businesses, and also consistent labelling on packaging to make it easier to consumers to know what can and can’t be recycled.
These collections will include separate weekly food waste collections for every household in England and could include free garden waste collections for households with gardens.
Having comprehensive and frequent collections will ensure more reliable services for householders while retaining local flexibility, Defra says.
The consultation sets out options for how this will work in practice and which widely-recyclable material should be included, such as plastic bottles and plastic pots, tubs and trays, glass packaging (bottles and jars), paper and card, and metal packaging.
Defra is also seeking views on making waste disposal more cost-effective while at the same time increasing the amount of recycling collected from businesses.
Deposit Return Scheme
The Government is also seeking views on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and bottles, subject to consultation, alongside setting out two potential models – ‘all-in’ or ‘on-the-go’.
This could drive up the recycling of an estimated three billion plastic bottles which are currently incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute our streets, countryside and marine environment, Defra says.
Government will seek views on two options for how the DRS could work if introduced. The first option, known as the ‘all-in’ model, would target a large amount of drinks beverages placed on the market, irrespective of size.
The second option, known as the ‘on-the-go’ model, would restrict the drinks containers in-scope to those less than 750ml in size and sold in single format containers. This model would target drinks most often sold for consumption outside of the home (while ‘on-the–go’).
Friends of the Earth – “A deposit return scheme is long-overdue – it’s been successful in other countries, it’s popular with the public and it will cut the amount of bottles and cans chucked out each year. The scheme must cover all containers, not just small ones.”
Similar schemes already operate successfully in other countries, Defra says – for example, total return rates of drinks containers in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden are at 90%, 92%, 98%, 92% and 85% respectively.
Paul Vanston, CEO of Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment (INCPEN)commented, saying it’s critical there is a four-way agreement between the UK nations on the new systems that are implemented.
“Manufacturers, retailers, brands and many others wish to see harmonised approaches for the reformed packaging recovery notes (PRN) system and for a deposit return scheme. But it’s not within the gift of Defra to dictate the UK system, as these policies are devolved to the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales… We encourage Ministers across the nations to work hard with the whole supply chain to deliver against their pledge of July 2018 to implement UK-wide systems.”
Friends of the Earth’s Julian Kirby said: “A deposit return scheme is long-overdue – it’s been successful in other countries, it’s popular with the public and it will cut the amount of bottles and cans chucked out each year. The scheme must cover all containers, not just small ones.”
Plastic Packaging Tax
Government has also launched its consultation on introducing a tax on plastic packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content, subject to consultation, from April 2022. This will aim to address the current issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
The Government is now seeking views on proposals for how the tax will work. For example, which packaging should be in scope of the tax, how to assess recycled content, and which businesses will be liable for the tax. The Government is open to views on the best design options.
Philip Hammond – “This action, coupled with the other measures we are bringing in, will help drive up recycling, cut the amount of new plastic being used and protect our environment for future generations.”
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: “Plastic packaging makes up two-thirds of all the plastic waste that pollutes this country and wreaks havoc on our environment. It’s our responsibility to do something about it and that’s why we will introduce a new tax on the producers of plastic packaging that don’t use enough recycled material.
“This action, coupled with the other measures we are bringing in, will help drive up recycling, cut the amount of new plastic being used and protect our environment for future generations.”
Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner said: “A plastic tax should give firms a real incentive to use more recycled plastic in their products, leading to less waste and less pollution. But to be truly effective the tax must be regularly revised to periodically increase the proportion of recycled material that manufacturers use.
Extended Producer Responsibly
Costs of managing packaging waste will be funded by industry through a packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, Defra says. This will see industry pay higher fees if their packaging is harder to reuse or recycle and will encourage sustainable design, subject to the consultation launched today.
EPR for packaging will raise between £800 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal, according to Defra.
Currently, packaging producers pay only around 10% of the cost of dealing with packaging waste. By increasing that to cover the full amount, government aims to incentivise producers to think carefully about using less packaging, and to switch to using packaging that is easier to recycle.
INCPEN – “The size of the prize on offer for radically improved UK-wide systems warrants sectors working together during this consultation phase. That means no single organisation or sector should wish to seek advantage for themselves at the costs of others in the very same supply chain – INCPEN won’t be doing that.”
Following the overhaul of the packaging regulations, the government will explore extended producer responsibility schemes for items that can be harder or costly to recycle.
As well as improving existing schemes for cars, electrical goods and batteries, this could include things such as textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.
Friends of the Earth’s Julian Kirby said: “A radical overhaul of waste strategy is urgently needed to deal with our waste crisis – but this must include bold targets to substantially cut the waste that squanders precious resources, blights our environment and harms our wildlife… These proposals are welcome steps forward – but bigger strides are needed if we are truly going to deal with the consequences of our throwaway society.”
Paul Vanston, CEO of INCPEN said: “The size of the prize on offer for radically improved UK-wide systems warrants sectors working together during this consultation phase. That means no single organisation or sector should wish to seek advantage for themselves at the costs of others in the very same supply chain – INCPEN won’t be doing that.
“Instead we will seek the greater good. We will work co-operatively with others to submit consultations responses that can be implemented with the support of all four nations. In 20 years’ time it would be good for everyone to see the UK-wide systems designed in 2019 still operating well, and delivering the 65%+ recycling rates we can be proud of. That’s the opportunity we now need to grasp together.”