Under a new UK government strategy Businesses and manufacturers will pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste.
Under the new system, unveiled by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove today, a legal onus will be put on those responsible for producing damaging waste to take greater responsibility and foot the bill in England.
The announcement forms part of the government’s new Resources and Waste Strategy. 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.
According to the government, householders will see the existing complicated recycling system simplified, with new plans for a consistent approach to recycling across England. Timings for introduction will be subject to discussions at the Spending Review.
Launching the strategy at Veolia’s recycling centre in London, 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.”
To help drive up recycling levels further, the government said that it will introduce consistent set of recyclable material for collection, subject to consultation.
This is planned to 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 £500 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.
The move builds on the Autumn Budget, which announced a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content, subject to consultation, from April 2022. This will address the current issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
The Resources and Waste Strategy sets out how government will:
- Ensure producers pay the full net costs of disposal or recycling of packaging they place on the market by extending producer responsibility – up from just 10% now.
- Review our producer responsibility schemes for items that can be harder or costly to recycle including cars, electrical goods, batteries and explore extending it to textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.
- Introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses, and consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle, to drive-up recycling rates.
- Ensure weekly collections of food waste, which is often smelly and unpleasant, for every household – restoring weekly collections in some local authorities. 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
- Introduce a deposit return scheme, subject to consultation, to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans, and disposable cups filled at the point of sale.
- Explore mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on products, to encourage manufacturers to design products that last longer and drive up the levels of repair and re-use.
- Introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses. Should progress be insufficient, we will consult on introducing mandatory targets for food waste prevention.
- Clamp-down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste, and tougher penalties for rogue waste crime operators if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax rules.
The strategy sits alongside government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the recently published Bioeconomy Strategy, and the Clean Growth Strategywhich sets out how the UK is leading the world in cutting carbon emissions to combat climate change and driving economic growth.
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.
“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.
“The focus on whole-system changes is welcome including packaging reforms, consistency of councils’ household collections, and ways to increase investment in recycling infrastructure.”
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