Last month, the UK government released four Resource and Waste Strategy consultation documents, which set out its intent to minimise waste, promote resource efficiency and develop a circular economy in line with its 25-year environmental plan. Included in these consultation papers were the government’s plans for packaging waste.
The government’s ambition, as outlined in the papers, is to reduce the amount of packaging that is used unnecessarily or that is difficult to recycle. It wants industrial packaging companies to develop products that are made from recycled materials and are easier to recycle, increasing sustainability. And, it wants to make it easier for businesses and consumers to recycle their packaging waste, reducing the amount that finds its way to landfill.
The plan includes the government’s intention to have producers of industrial packaging pay the full net cost for recycling and disposing of their products, as opposed to the 7 – 10% they currently cover. Beyond this, the price for recycling and disposing of packaging is currently covered by local authorities. If this measure is approved, packaging companies will need to pay up to £629 million in additional costs every year in order to meet their legal obligations.
Some of these costs will come from the need manufacturers will have to update their processes, source new materials and – potentially – invest in new equipment. However, the government is also proposing introducing a modulated fee system that charges manufacturers more if they produce packaging that is harder to recycle or can’t be recycled at all. This is seen as a way to incentivise industrial packaging manufacturers to look for new solutions to the problems of packaging waste.
The government is currently considering four different types of fee structures:
1. Enhanced near to business as usual, which will be based on the current compliance model and calculated by looking at the type of packaging a company manufactures, as well as how much.
2. Single not for profit scheme, where responsibility would fall under one organisation to set the fees, which would be agreed with the government, although there would be no statutory oversight.
3. Separate schemes for household and commercial packaging, which would set different fees and compliance levels depending on what the packaging was used for. Like the single not for profit scheme, fees would be set by a single organisation outside of the government.
4. Deposit based scheme, which would be managed by the government and involve manufacturers paying a deposit per tonne of material, with the amount of deposit varying dependent on the material used.
Producers of packaging will also hold responsibility for complying with legislation and the design of new packaging made from recycled materials or packaging that is easier to recycle. Additional measures will be put in place for online businesses to ensure they are not exempt from any legislative requirements.
The government plans to introduce this new system in 2023, with targets set for 2025 and 2030 on paper and card, glass, aluminium, steel, plastic and wood. Legislation will cover England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Packaging companies wishing to find out more can find the documents on the government’s website. Those who want to respond can do so until mid-May.