Packaging producer compliance schemes have offered differing views over future recycling targets for packaging waste up to the end of the decade.
The difference of views from schemes emerged in responses to a consultation into packaging targets for aluminium, steel, paper, wood and recovery, launched by Defra in November and which closed on Friday (6 January).
Defra has outlined three options for the targets to 2020 in its consultation and indicated that so far it has no preference. The options include keeping targets at 2017 levels through to the end of the decade or adopting tiered increases for aluminium, steel, paper, wood and recovery from 2018. (Click here to see the three options in detail)
The 2017 targets stand at 55% for aluminium, 76% for steel, 69.5% for paper, 22% for wood and 79% for recovery (see letsrecycle.com story). The consultation does not apply to glass or plastics packaging targets up to 2020 as these have already been set.
Several viewpoints have emerged from the responses submitted to Defra, particularly in relation to wood packaging targets, which could rise from the current 22% rate to either 31% or 48% by 2020, depending on the outcome of the consultation.
Valpak, the UK’s largest packaging compliance scheme, has responded in favour of Defra’s Option 3 advocating a steep rise in the target for aluminium, and a moderate increase for paper and steel – but with an increase in the wood target, which Valpak terms as a ‘variation’, The scheme suggests that the wood packaging recycling should rise to 40% by the end of the decade.
Valpak was involved last year in compiling wood and paper packaging flow reports on behalf of WRAP. The reports suggested recycling rates for the two materials had been overestimated but were still on course to meet EU requirement by 2020. The research was used to shape the consultation (see letsrecycle.com story).
In its consultation response Valpak also said that most of the proposed targets in option 3, notably steel and aluminium, have the advantage of mirroring proposed European targets up to 2025. However it believes the 31% wood target is ‘significantly below’ the trajectory necessary to meet the European target.
The scheme notes: “We would therefore suggest that a better option would be for a slightly higher increase in wood target of 6% points per year from 2018, rising to 40% in 2020, which appears to be on track to meet the proposed 2025 targets and provides a more gradual increase.”
The Wastepack compliance scheme has responded in favour of Option 2, with a ‘caveat’ that the proposed 48% wood recycling target is monitored ‘very closely and adjusted accordingly should it be necessary’.
The scheme notes: “If we do not implement these targets then we run the risk of reaching 2025 facing a potential deficit in recycling levels which could lead to significant PRN price spikes which is something we need to avoid. Therefore it will be better to have a more planned approach with small annual increments in recycling targets which will allow producers and reprocessors to adjust and achieve medium/long term objectives.”
Bristol-based compliance scheme Ecosurety, which has released its consultation submission online, told letsrecycle.com that it is in favour of Option 3 without variations to the Defra proposals. It claims: “These are the most achievable targets within growth forecasts and offer the best returns on investment whilst allowing us more flexibility to steer long term objectives once we have exited the EU around 2020.”
“We believe that it would have made more sense to wait for amended targets within the Packaging Directive (in the Circular Economy package) to be ratified by the European Council before randomly increasing targets in the UK”
However, Pennine Pack – a compliance scheme in the North of England – has contested the need for any increase at all, suggesting Defra maintains current 2017 targets until 2020. It forecasts that by 2018 the UK will have already exceeded many of the 2020 EU targets including the 15% wood recycling requirement.
In its response to Defra, the scheme wrote: “We believe that it would have made more sense to wait for amended targets within the Packaging Directive (in the Circular Economy package) to be ratified by the European Council before randomly increasing targets in the UK.
“We can see no reasonable reason to extend recycling targets above the levels needed to achieve compliance with the EU Packaging Directive.”