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Government release Resources and Waste Strategy

18th December 2018

Martin Hyde

This morning (18 December 2018), the government has published its long-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy

It is a significant document of 146 pages covering a huge range of waste related issues. Although reform of the Producer Responsibility System for packaging appears to be the headline issue, alongside mandatory food waste collections, progress has been made on other sectors of the waste value chain and the Circular Economy (or a movement towards a more Circular Economy) is a running theme throughout.

Overview

The strategy document is broken into 8 specific chapters, each covering a separate area. A timeline has also been provided, including vague launch dates for upcoming consultations as well as implementation aims for policy reviews. The timeline itself has been met with mixed reviews, with Mary Creagh (Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee) hitting out at the delay until 2023 of the roll-out of a Deposit Return Scheme. Aside from the headline issues, other points of note include ecolabelling based on product environmental performance, banning problematic products where there is a clear reason to and providing significant support for research and innovation.

Figure 1: Key Milestones graphic taken from the government’s full strategy document (page 13) - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/765625/resources-waste-strategy-dec-2018.pdf

Packaging Producer Responsibility: What does this mean?

Packaging Reform is considered an immediate priority, with legislation to begin in 2021, to be implemented in 2023. As we have been aware for a while, the government will be launching its consultations on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging and Deposit Return Schemes in early January 2019. This represents a generational opportunity to provide feedback and input evidence on how future EPR Regulations could look.

An indicative timeline has been provided, which covers all current EPR regulations (Packaging, WEEE, Batteries and End of Life vehicles), with two more EPR schemes to be consulted on in 2022 (likely to include an EPR system for car tyres, fishing gear, textiles or mattresses).

Although we will not know full details until the consultations are released, below are a few of the key aims of the Packaging Reforms:

  • Incentivised reduction of unnecessary or hard to recycle packaging.
  • Producers to fund the end of life management of packaging, to potentially include; collection, recycling, disposal, reduction of littering and fly-tipping, communications, data collection and reporting, compliance monitoring and enforcement.
  • Collection of a nationally agreed set of materials for recycling.
  • Mandatory labelling and improved communication (including Ecolabelling) to help consumers know what they can recycle.
  • Levelling the playing field between UK re-processing and exporting to overseas recyclers.

In response to the release of this document, Comply Direct's Managing Director Gareth Roberts said: 

“It has been 11 years since the last government waste strategy and this much anticipated new Resources and Waste Strategy document is maybe a little overdue, especially given in recent years the levels of consumer interest and media scrutiny in waste and more broadly in global climate change and pollution. It could be said that the proposals are ambitious, but in reality just how ambitious they are will depend on the detail and there will be long periods of multiple consultations in the next few years before any significant changes are introduced. The delay in making the proposed changes will undoubtedly infuriate many.

There is no doubt however, that in the coming years there will be an overhaul of the current UK Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems with the Packaging Regulations getting most attention first. It seems inevitable that there will be more waste streams covered by EPR legislation in the future too. In essence, companies that are responsible for putting materials on the market that end up as waste will be paying more (covering full costs) in the future for their actions, but they will be rewarded over their competitors if they are innovative in terms of minimising their own environmental impact. I suppose the other big headlines are firm plans for separate food waste collections and a nationwide Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.

In summary, the overall content is encouraging and the clear direction of travel is to move at a faster pace from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource within a more Circular Economy.”

What is next?

A consultation into the reform of the PRN system is expected in early January 2019, we would highly recommend that anyone whom handles waste packaging contributes either via their own response, or by engaging with our policy team so that we can include your thoughts in our scheme response. We will be providing a full breakdown of the Resources and Waste Strategy in due course and will contact members regarding our upcoming reform-based content early in 2019.

If you would like more information regarding the Resource and Waste Strategy or the upcoming consultations on Packaging Reform, please email your query to consultation@complydirect.com