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The government recently launched a series of consultations to overhaul the waste system, cut plastic pollution, and move towards a more circular economy. Under the proposals, packaging producers look set to pay the full cost of dealing with their waste, together with more consistent household recycling, and a Deposit Return Scheme for cans and bottles, subject to consultation.

A consultation was also launched for a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content. New analysis published shows the net benefit to UK economy of the changes will run into millions. Plans for a major overhaul of the country’s waste system have been set out in a suite of consultations launched on 18/02/2019 by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Building on commitments made in the government’s landmark Resources and Waste Strategy published in December, the changes will make up a key part of the government’s upcoming Environment Bill, to be introduced early in the second session of Parliament.

As well as making businesses and manufacturers pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste, householders will see the existing complicated recycling system simplified. A consultation has launched on a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses, and consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle. These will include separate weekly food waste collections for every household in England.

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.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond added “Plastic packaging makes up two-thirds of all the plastic waste that pollutes this country and wreaks havoc on our environment. It’s our responsibility to do something about it and that’s why we will introduce a new tax on the producers of plastic packaging that don’t use enough recycled material. This action, coupled with the other measures we are bringing in, will help drive up recycling, cut the amount of new plastic being used and protect our environment for future generations.”

Extended producer responsibility for packaging

The new plans set out by government will see the costs of recycling borne by those that produce packaging waste and place it on the market. Currently, packaging producers pay only around 10 per cent of the cost of dealing with packaging waste. By increasing that to cover the full amount, government will incentivise producers to think carefully about using less packaging, and to switch to using packaging that is easier to recycle. Following the overhaul of the packaging regulations, the government will explore extended producer responsibility schemes for items that can be harder or costly to recycle. As well as improving existing schemes for cars, electrical goods and batteries, this could include things such as textiles, fishing gear, vehicle tyres, certain materials from construction and demolition, and bulky waste such as mattresses, furniture and carpets.

The Government are seeking views on its plans for 12 weeks, ending 13/05/2019.

Find the packaging waste consultation at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/packaging-waste-changing-the-uk-producer-responsibility-system-for-packaging-waste