Recycling reform must go “back to the drawing board”

With less than a year to go, retailers are calling on Government to urgently rethink crucial parts of its proposed recycling reforms. Retailers are committed to reducing waste and packaging and want reforms that truly deliver on these aims, but are deeply concerned that the reform to the packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which is due to come into force in April next year, is fundamentally flawed. Without significant investment in recycling infrastructure in Britain, households in the UK could be footing the bill for EPR without any meaningful improvements to UK recycling rates – a prospect which has been absent in campaigning ahead of next month’s local elections.

Major retailers are calling on Government to fix the policy. At a cost of at least £1.7bn per year, businesses want a world-class new EPR scheme that significantly increases the use of recycled materials in new packaging as they try to meet their ambitious sustainability goals. Unfortunately, there is little confidence in DEFRA’s current proposals for EPR.

The proposals lack ambition and fail to set out how an effective, efficient, national and fit for the future recycling system will be created in the UK, including how EPR funds would be ring-fenced to stop local councils diverting funds away from recycling to other budget streams. Only by protecting these recycling revenues will the UK be able to drive the scale of investment needed to upgrade our recycling infrastructure and deliver long-term growth for local recycling capabilities.

Retailers are also calling for changes to the way the system is managed, to bring the UK in line with the best recycling schemes around the world. High-performing European and Canadian programmes are industry-led, with businesses responsible for running the system, to drive overall cost-efficiency and increase investment that would ensure a reliable supply of recycled materials are available for use in future packaging, all while minimising the amount of waste heading to landfill. The current proposals risk setting the UK back environmentally, and at a significant cost to businesses, and consequently their customers, many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium CEO, said, “It’s time that the government went back to the drawing board. We have the opportunity to get it right on the future of a waste management scheme that will determine UK recycling rates for a generation. We want to see a scheme which improves recycling in the UK and ensures a steady supply of recyclable material that can be reused for future packaging.

“Under existing proposals, funding meant for UK recycling could end up servicing local authority debt or be put to uses which do not improve our national recycling infrastructure. The government’s haste to introduce a new system is undermining the system itself. It’s time to work with retailers and manufacturers to ensure the public gets a world-class recycling system that collects and processes as much recyclable material as possible.”

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