The impact of packaging on the environment has been well and truly thrust into the public consciousness in recent years, with the likes of Blue Planet II, headlines about single use plastic and China’s refusal to accept our low quality packaging waste dominating.
Against the backdrop of a huge swell of public interest and a critical report by the National Audit Office into the PRN system used by producers to comply with the regulations, government released the Resources and Waste Strategy in December 2018 which promised to consult on the future of the packaging compliance and recycling in the UK.
As promised, four key consultations have now been launched that have the potential to shake up the way we produce, handle and recycle packaging. Open until mid-May, the consultations tackle an area that has seen virtually no policy intervention for over two decades. If you are a packaging producer, it is crucial that you are up to speed on the scope and detail of the proposed reform.
Transforming the UK packaging compliance system
First up for consultation is the UK packaging producer responsibility system itself. This seeks to address known issues with the existing system, including a lack of transparency, a bias towards exporting UK waste and limited financial support for Local Authorities who handle the majority of consumer packaging waste.
The headline for producers is a proposal that could see packaging compliance costs increase ten-fold so that they cover the full net cost of managing their packaging waste. Plans to reduce unnecessary packaging and use of materials that are hard to recycle are also included in the consultation, as are proposals to increase the use to easily recyclable materials.
A new plastic tax
The 2018 budget proposed a new tax levied on the production and import of plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content, with the aim of redressing the fact that recycled plastic is often more expensive to use when compared to virgin material. This consultation considers how the tax would work, types of packaging that should fall within scope, which businesses will be liable and how best to assess recycled content.
Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)
Another consultation considers a new system to encourage the easy return of used drinks containers, with the aim of increasing material capture rates and reducing littering. This could take the form a small fee that is returned to the user when a used drinks container is returned. It is likely to be a UK-wide system with all governments and devolved administrations working together.
Ensuring consistency in household and business recycling
There has long been a stagnation in household recycling rates combined with few drivers that encourage local authorities to improve recycling services. There has also been a lack of incentives for business to invest in waste and recycling services. This consultation seeks to improve this situation.
Make sure you have your say
It is vitally important that UK packaging producers, recyclers and other stakeholders have their say and respond to the consultations. We are aware than many B2B Compliance members also have packaging obligations, if they handle 50 tonnes of packaging and have a turnover over £2m for example, and we actively encourage them to respond to the government consultations.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your packaging compliance via our trusted and industry leading partners, please do contact us.