UK: Reform of producer responsibility for packaging "immediate priority"

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19.12.2018 − 

The British government released its long-awaited Resources & Waste for England on Tuesday, outlining how England is to increase resource productivity and eliminate "avoidable waste of all kinds" by 2050. Environment minister Michael Gove said the strategy will reduce reliance on single-use plastics, cut confusion over household recycling, tackle the problems of packaging and end the "economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste".

In the strategy document, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) identifies packaging waste reform as an "immediate priority". The government wants to transition to a system fully based on the "polluter pays" principle, ensuring that producers pay "the full costs of disposal for packaging they place on the market". At present, the payments made by producers covered only around 10 per cent of costs.

Under a reformed system, all producers would be expected to pay into the system and to bear the "full net cost of managing their products" at the end of life, explained Defra. In this context, the Department notes that local authorities are to be "resourced to meet new net costs arising from the strategy". At the same time, the costs passed on to producers are to be "fair, necessary and transparent" and out-comes, objectives, targets and responsibilities are to be clear. Schemes would also need to be structured so as to encourage producers to make more sustainable design choices through modulated fees or other measures.

Defra's current timeline foresees the launch of the new EPR scheme for packaging in 2023. A consultation on the reform of the current system is among the first steps in the implementation of the strategy and is expected to open in "early 2019". That consultation is to run concurrently with hearings on minimum standards for the collection of household and business waste and the introduction of a bottle deposit return scheme.

Other sections of the Resources & Waste Strategy address the expansion of EPR in other sectors, reducing food waste, standardising recyclate collection and combating waste crime.

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