The government has launched a 12-week consultation for a plastic producers tax, a deposit-return scheme and weekly food waste collections.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
The measures were first introduced in the Waste and Recycling Strategy in December, with the major policy announcement being that businesses and manufacturers of packaging will be expected to pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their waste, through a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which the government estimates will raise up to a £1bn a year for recycling and disposal.
Currently, packaging producers pay only around 10% of the cost of dealing with packaging waste. However, by increasing that to cover the full amount, the government hopes it will incentivise producers to think carefully about using less packaging, and to switch to using packaging that is easier to recycle.
The consultation will seek views on how the tax will work, which packaging should be in scope of the tax, how to assess recycled content, and which businesses will be liable for the tax.
The government has also launched its consultation on introducing a tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022. They say this will address the current issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner said: ‘A plastic tax should give firms a real incentive to use more recycled plastic in their products, leading to less waste and less pollution. But to be truly effective the tax must be regularly revised to periodically increase the proportion of recycled material that manufacturers use.’
Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)
The government will also seek views on how best to introduce the much-awaited DRS. They say the the first option, known as the ‘all-in’ model, would target a large amount of drinks beverages placed on the market, irrespective of size. The second option, known as the ‘on-the-go’ model, would restrict the drinks containers in-scope to those less than 750ml in size and sold in single format containers. This model would target drinks most often sold for consumption outside of the home (while ‘on-the–go’).
The deposit return scheme is set to come into force from 2023, which was criticised by Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage.
He said on Twitter that a 5-year delay ‘could see another 28 billion plastic bottles escape the recycling system and end up in our ocean.’
Consistent recycling collections
A report published in July from the National Audit Office (NAO) said the method used to calculate packaging recycling rates is ‘not sufficiently robust,’ accusing the government of not facing up to ‘underlying recycling issues.’
To help tackle this, and reduce confusion from residents around recycling, the government will be looking to introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials and are looking for views on which widely-recyclable materials should be included, such as plastic bottles and plastic pots, tubs and trays, glass packaging (bottles and jars), paper and card, and metal packaging.
Also proposed are weekly food waste collections for every household, as well as ‘free’ garden waste collection for houses with gardens, which the government says will ensure more reliable services for householders while retaining local flexibility.
The changes will make up a key part of the government’s upcoming Environment Bill, which is expected this Spring.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste. That’s why we are leading the way to move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society and drive up domestic recycling.
‘Through our plans we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling.’
‘We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.’
Responding, Cllr Martin Tett, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said councils must be better funded if they are to deliver the services outlined in the consultation.
‘But we recognise that by working with government, there is more to be done to boost recycling to reach national targets and even higher standards.
‘We are clear however that any changes to waste services and additional cost burdens on councils, who are already under enormous financial pressure, need to be fully funded.
‘With councils in England facing an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, it is vital that the Spending Review fully funds the local services our communities rely on, such as waste and recycling.’