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Government Releases Summary of Responses to Resources & Waste Consultations

The UK government has published its response to the three waste and resources consultations, launched earlier in the year by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The results were published on 23 July alongside an Environment Bill ‘summer policy statement’, which summarised progress made since the publication of the draft Bill in December 2018.

Responses to the consultations confirmed the government’s commitment to introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers, a ‘full net cost recovery’ extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for packaging, and a consistent set of core recyclable materials (including food waste) to be collected from households and businesses in England.

The, now former, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, announced the release of the policy statement the day before the cabinet reshuffle, at the time commenting: “The measures in our Environment Bill will position the UK as a world leader, ensuring that after EU Exit environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.

“As we have set out today, our plans will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.”

1)      Reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system (EPR)

Defra received 679 responses to this consultation, which asked for views on reforms to the packaging producer responsibility regulations. The proposals recommend that the full net costs of managing packaging waste are placed on those businesses who use packaging and who are best placed to influence its design, which is consistent with the polluter pays principle and the concept of extended producer responsibility. It is not yet known which of the proposed models Defra will adopt for EPR. Further consultation on the final proposals will now take place in 2020, ahead of a 2023 implementation date.

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2) Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

The purpose of the DRS consultation was to help the government consider the merits of introducing a scheme and “ensure that it will be easy for consumers to return drinks containers, leading to increased recycling rates and a reduction in littering”. Michael Gove’s preference was for an ‘all-in’ DRS model but the scope of a scheme is still to be decided and further consultation will take place next year to decide the regulatory framework of a DRS, with an intended introduction in 2023.

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3) Consistency in household and business recycling collections

This consultation sought views on developing a consistent set of materials to be collected for recycling by all local authorities in England. The aim of these reforms is to reduce confusion for householders and increase the country’s recycling rate, which has been stagnating at around 44 to 45 per cent for the past five years. Defra will be seeking to amend legislation to require all councils in England to collect ‘at least’ the following materials from 2023:

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Launched alongside Defra’s three Waste and Resources consultations, HMRC issued a consultation that focused on a new tax to be levied on the production and import of plastic packaging with less than 30 per cent recycled content.

In the summary of responses, the government says it will continue to consider which approaches will best support the objectives of the tax, are most administratively feasible and do not have a disproportionate impact on business. Next steps will be set out in the 2019 Budget, with HMRC publishing a technical consultation on the detail at a later date. Draft legislation will then be published for consultation in 2020.

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With legislative changes on the horizon in the next few years, Clarity Environmental’s Packaging Compliance Manager, Martin Trigg-Knight, advises businesses to prepare now for the inevitable challenges ahead.

“This year, producers have faced the stark reality of the increased cost of compliance, and it has not been easy. There are many uncertainties. But we know that change is happening, and we know it is likely to be significant, with a requirement on producers to pay full net costs from 2023.

“It is vital for businesses to get a head start and innovate now in order to meet both the consumer and legislative demands to reduce unnecessary packaging.

“We will continue to support our members through the process, helping them to future-proof their packaging and make positive changes for their business, their consumers, and of course for the environment.”

Are your senior leaders fully briefed on the changes ahead? Do you understand the current system and the challenges being proposed by the government? We can help to brief your business on the future proposals and likely impact on your business, investigate potential opportunities for increasing the sustainability of your packaging, and ensure you understand the steps you can take now to prepare. Contact our team to find out more.

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