Finance questions to shape impact of legislation

The end of summer, hopefully warm and sunny for September’s recycling shows, and the autumn this year are a period of time to start preparing for a huge amount of change.

Steve Eminton is editor of letsrecycle.com

At letsrecycle.com we have the recent acquisition of our business by the RoarB2B company which sees the Letsrecycle Live show within the same business as RWM. Changes are ahead for sure and the avowed aim of all those involved is to bring strong and enticing opportunities to the market with further details expected over the coming month.

Of broader significance though is the entry into parliament again of the Environment Bill. So much is at stake in this Bill which sweeps across the environmental sector. Core topic for all is the idea of full payment by retailers or brand owners or manufacturers – or some combination of them all – for the collection of recyclables from the household.

Quite how this is going to work still raises huge debate and is hard to see. The PRN system, which took years to settle in and be well understood, is tiny in terms of the dramatic legislative change that is going to sweep across local authorities, recyclers and retail/brands.

It is still hard to believe that the retailers/brands are totally up for the changes ahead. Some in the sector argue that there is support from within retailers/brands for the idea that they should pay for the collection and recycling of packaging material. But, the cost is likely to be enormous and these businesses are undoubtedly going to quibble over the costs and query data from local authorities.

A reform of the PRN system now looks to be too late and the new EPR system will be introduced and then surely take years to bed in. The costs of the administrative system needed look substantial and whether staffing is available and funding is there, remain uncertain.

The Treasury seems more likely than was the case when the Environment Bill was first mooted to now look closely at costs. Prior to Covid with the economy performing well, there were few concerns in Defra that the money for new burdens and the new system might not be available.

The idea of councils scrapping charges for garden waste services seems even more remote

Now, the Treasury will be taking a harder look. A full DRS system has to be unlikely and the idea of councils scrapping charged for garden waste services seems even more remote. Plus the disruption that the idea of a diktat approach to the collection of business waste also seems remote, for the time being at least. Defra ministers and officials will probably not be too concerned if they lose some of their plans, the big one does look set to remain: out with the PRN system and in with a full cost EPR. Treasury would like that as council taxes won’t be reduced, even if council costs are lower, and the money could be used for bolstering other services.

Whether the Environment Bill’s passage will reveal the way ahead or it will be from ministerial decisions later this year or even next, is not clear. Financial rather than political pressure looks however to rule what happens next.

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