Businesses and manufacturers will “pay the full cost” of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste, government says, under its long-awaited strategy for England’s resources and waste, which has been unveiled by the Environment Secretary today (18 December).
The move aims to overhaul England’s waste system, putting a legal onus on those responsible for producing environmentally damaging waste to take greater responsibility and “foot the bill”.
The announcement forms part of the government’s long-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy for England, which is being labelled as the first comprehensive update in more than a decade.
As well as putting the financial burden of packaging recycling and disposal back onto businesses and manufacturers, proposals within include mandatory food waste prevention targets for businesses, compulsory electronic tracking of waste to clamp-down on illegal movements, tougher penalties for rogue crime operators and what the strategy calls “consistent” recycling for every household.
Waste producers will also be expected to take more responsibility for items that can be harder or costly to recycle including cars, electrical goods, and batteries.
Launching the strategy at Veolia’s recycling centre in London, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.
“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.
“Through this plan we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
Extended Producer Responsibility
With an aim of helping to drive recycling, the government says it will introduce a “consistent set of recyclable material for collection”, subject to consultation. This will be funded by industry through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which will see industry pay higher fees if their products are harder to reuse, repair or recycle and will encourage sustainable design, subject to consultation.
EPR for packaging will raise between £0.5 billion and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal, it says. Producers currently pay 10%, which the government wants to increase.
The move follows the Autumn Budget, which announced a “world-leading tax” on plastic packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content, subject to consultation, from April 2022. This aims to address the current issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
As well as setting mandatory food waste targets for businesses, the strategy also sets out to ensure weekly collections of food waste for every household. This will be subject to consultation which will also consider free garden waste collections for households with gardens, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill.
Annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses will also be introduced. Should progress be insufficient in this area, government says it will consult on introducing mandatory targets for food waste prevention.
Michael 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 strategy also says government will introduce a deposit return scheme that will aim to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans, and disposable cups filled at the point of sale.
It will also explore consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle.
Mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on products, with an aim of encouraging manufacturers to design products that last longer and drive up the levels of repair and re-use, will also be explored.
The strategy sits alongside government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the recently published Bioeconomy Strategy, and the Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out how the UK is cutting carbon emissions to combat climate change and driving economic growth.
The government has also today (18 December) announced £8m of funding for eight new research projects that will explore new and different ways of making, using and recycling plastics.
The government is also investing £20m to tackle plastics and boost recycling: £10m more for plastics research and development and £10m to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter, such as smart bins.
This is in addition to the £20m for plastics research and development through the Plastics Innovation Fund announced in March 2018.
Industry Reaction: “Clear Potential”
Speaking at Veolia Southwark’s Integrated Waste Management Facility in London, Richard Kirkman, Veolia’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, said:“The government has listened to industry and these steps have the clear potential to dramatically change the way the sector operates to increase recycling and recovery rates.
“With consistent collections and advanced facilities like this at Southwark more recyclable materials can be collected for reprocessing into new products. As a business we are ready to invest, to take advantage of new technology, build more infrastructure and work with brand owners and local authorities to harness resources on an industrial scale.
INCPEN – “The focus on whole-system changes is welcome including packaging reforms, consistency of councils’ household collections, and ways to increase investment in recycling infrastructure.”
“It’s the direction we have been hoping and waiting for, and with the public and businesses playing their part the UK can build a sustainable future.”
Paul Vanston, CEO of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) said:“Substantial credit is due to Secretary of State Michael Gove, Environment Minister Therese Coffey and officials for the high quality and depth of their engagement work in the lead up to this Resources & Waste Strategy.
“The focus on whole-system changes is welcome including packaging reforms, consistency of councils’ household collections, and ways to increase investment in recycling infrastructure.”
Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said:“We support a circular economy and welcome the resource and waste strategy that will help us all deliver it.
ESA – “We now have the opportunity to boost recycling and cut waste – creating over 50,000 jobs with £8 billion private sector investment in the process – but for this to happen the high-level ambition in the strategy will need to be turned into detailed actions that matter.”
“The plan embodies a solid commitment to tackling serious and organised waste crime, which drains the economy and blights communities.
“Last year, the EA closed down over 800 illegal sites and carried out 93 successful prosecutions. The strategy sets to build on our successes, with additional resources, better innovation and improved partnerships across government and enforcement agencies.”
ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler, said:“It’s important to understand that policy decisions in this important area can make a real difference to the economy. We now have the opportunity to boost recycling and cut waste – creating over 50,000 jobs with £8 billion private sector investment in the process – but for this to happen the high-level ambition in the strategy will need to be turned into detailed actions that matter.”
“This strategy provides a much-needed framework to reboot recycling and support progress towards a more circular economy,” says CIWM Executive Director Chris Murphy.
“It proposes many measures that CIWM has long been calling for, including fundamental reform of packaging producer responsibility, new producer responsibility schemes for other challenging waste streams such as tyres, and the full roll out of separate food waste collection.
“Importantly, the strategy also acknowledges the need for action right at the top of the waste hierarchy. As well as a focus on food waste prevention and measures to address some of the key barriers to reuse and remanufacture, CIWM also welcomes the commitment to mirror the EU level ambitions to extend eco-design to embrace resource efficiency.
“The range of measures to tackle waste crime are also welcome and reflects work done by CIWM, ESA and others to keep this growing problem on the Government’s agenda. The proposal for mandatory electronic tracking of waste, meanwhile, will not only help to prevent waste crime but will also provide better data to ensure that the economic value of secondary materials can be fully captured.
“There is still a lot of hard work to do, however, and we have an unrivalled opportunity as a sector to engage with Government over the next few months as the raft of expected consultations are launched. CIWM and other key bodies including the Resource Association, INCPEN, ESA and WRAP will be holding a major engagement event in London on 13th February to bring together stakeholders from across the sector to discuss the future of packaging producer responsibility, the role of a Deposit Return Scheme and the consistency agenda.”