The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that councils need more clarity on how waste services will be funded under the proposed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms.
The call came as part of the LGA’s response — which it published on Thursday (3 June)— to the government’s second round consultation on an EPR system for England.
While the LGA said it agrees producers should be responsible for 100% of the costs of managing packaging waste, it said the government hasn’t been clear on how this will be passed down.
Defra has said costs paid by producers will support a “cost-effective and efficient” system for managing packaging waste.
The costs will broadly be split into two sections: Operational costs to collect manage and dispose of packaging waste; and support costs for communication campaigns and contract changes.
The LGA said it isn’t clear how councils will receive funding for this.
It said: “We would like clarity on the assumptions that underpin the definitions of ‘efficient and effective’ council services.
“If councils are required to break long term contracts, the costs must be fully funded”
“Member councils are understandably anxious about where the benchmarks will be drawn, and whether this will disadvantage councils because of the nature of their areas and the existing infrastructure and supporting contracts.
“If councils are required to break long term contracts on the grounds that they are not efficient, the costs must be fully funded either through EPR payments or new burdens funding”.
Defra also consulted on plans to include plastic film as part of a core set of materials collected from the kerbside no later than 2026/27.
The consultation said this timeline would give sufficient time for industry and local authorities to make progress in addressing the issues that currently limit recycling of this packaging in the UK.
However, the LGA said while it welcomes effort to boost recycling, it again has concerns over costs.
Its consultation response said: “Our engagement with member councils has flagged up concerns about the cost implications and the lead-in times as this may require new infrastructure such as depots and transfer stations and new sorting equipment.
“This may require the purchase of land for new sites, and time to engage with residents in the surrounding areas over planning concerns”.
The LGA added that if government wishes to impose this deadline “they must guarantee that the transition costs for councils are fully funded through EPR and the new burdens process”.
One of the most controversial elements of the EPR consultation was on business waste, where Defra has proposed three methods in the consultation for the collection of packaging waste from businesses, which has caused concern in the sector (see letsrecycle.com story).
The LGA said while it agrees that businesses “should do more to support recycling efforts”, there are many stumbling blocks to introducing the system.
It said the availability of data is poor and “waste companies do not provide statistics and performance information in the same way as local authorities”.
Councils will also be affected by the plans, the LGA said, “as they have office space and other premises that will come under the new mandatory obligations”.
It again said the LGA expects any new requirements to be fully funded by either EPR or new burdens.
The LGA response said: “Many councils provide waste collection services to local businesses. We encourage Defra to draw on their expertise in developing these proposals. Councils are key to providing services to businesses that are not profitable for commercial waste operators, for example community centres and businesses in rural and less populated areas”.
Summarising its response to the EPR consultation, the LGA said it “supports the ambition for an increase in recycling rates”.
It said councils have a “good story to tell on the growth in recycling”, pointing to recycling rates being maintained at current levels “despite a 60% cut in central government funding”.
It said the local government sector is “ready to take on the challenge of improving recycling levels and the overall waste service it provides to its residents”.
The LGA added: “Our work in understanding the reforms continues and we are grateful for the engagement with Defra”.