Reform of the UK’s packaging waste recovery note (PRN) system looks likely to see local authorities gain some form of financial support from PRNs issued on household packaging material.
At the same time, the PRN funding would be expected to work alongside a more consistent collection scheme for homes across England and most likely, Wales and Scotland too.
At present PRNs are estimated to contribute 10-20% of local authority collection costs but under a reformed system, councils are set to get a larger contribution plus money towards publicity programmes to promote recycling.
The ideas for changes to the rules surrounding packaging waste have been submitted to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove by three bodies: the Advisory Committee on Packaging; packaging group INCPEN; and resource charity WRAP.
Today (15 May) Mr Gove signalled his support for the idea that “business funding” could help accelerate a move towards “uniform recycling collections”.
And, he confirmed that his officials are now developing “specific models for a packaging extended producer responsibility scheme”. There is to be a consultation later this year by Defra on this alongside consultations on proposals for DRS deposit scheme and future packaging recycling targets.
Mr Gove also restated plans to reform other producer responsibility systems and this could cover items such as mattresses.
The document given to Mr Gove by the three bodies covers a number of key areas, building on recent trends including a desire to better handle plastic packaging waste and the government’s desire for consistency in local authority collections (although this has not been heavily advocated by ministers over the last 18 months).
The three bodies suggest that producers should design packaging to be more recyclable and there should be an approved list defining what is and what is not deemed to be recyclable.
This list could be linked to the PRN system with businesses producing materials or products which can’t be recycled, facing higher packaging waste costs.
Mr Gove is recommended to require councils to collect a core set of materials for recycling from householders. “For plastic packaging this will need to include bottles, pots, tubs, trays and film”.
While the document given to Mr Gove talks about giving money to council publicity schemes, it is also suggested that local authorities want to be able to punish residents who fail to recycle – local authority recycling officers group LARAC is among the groups the ACP, WRAP and INCPEN consulted with.
Mr Gove is told that changing section 46 of the Environment Protection Act is one way that councils could be given powers to require residents to recycle and punish them if they don’t.
Particular attention is paid to plastics in the document and it is suggested that the PRN system may be modified to favour processing of waste plastics within the UK, potentially through a split target system.
The work that was sent to the Secretary of State was co-ordinated by Marcus Gover, chief executive, of WRAP, who said that Mr Gove’s response was encouraging. “I am particularly pleased to see his commitment to accelerating the move to uniform recycling collections, as this supports a key area of work for WRAP. The need for government policy to underpin the commitments made by business will be key to us achieving the ambitious goals we have laid out in The UK Plastics Pact.”
A similar stance was taken by Paul Vanston, chief executive of INCPEN, who also praised the involvement of resource minister Therese Coffey as well as Mr Gove in “wishing to create a better functioning packaging value chain from design through to consumers and on to reprocessing and continued life of materials.”
Mr Vanston, who has a local authority background, noted that the packaging sector was “enthused” about moving closer to a “consistent collection system for used packaging across our country.” And, he added: “The implications of our recommendations to Mr Gove are that all parts of the packaging value chain need to take forward reforms simultaneously from design and manufacture through to retail and the consumer, and then councils to reprocessors.
“The packaging supply chain – from design through to retail – has seen a need to act positively and INCPEN members are very often at the forefront. In terms of any additional funding we’re clear this needs to result in better functioning systems overall, higher quality outcomes, and provide value for money.”
And, Phil Conran, chair of the ACP, commented: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s very positive response that will help to focus the direction of travel in the work the ACP is doing with Defra in developing options for change.”
[PICTURE OF MARCUS GOVER: BY HENRY IDDON]