Local authority association LARAC has raised concern that Defra’s plans for reform of the packaging system will be “insufficiently robust”.
The comments follow the publication of Defra’s Resources and Waste Strategy today (18 December), which outlines a series of commitments and areas for further consultation aimed at reducing waste and promoting resource efficiency.
Despite welcoming the intention from Defra to provide funding for local authorities, LARAC said it is seeking clarification on the definitions of what “full net cost recovery” means. According to the Association, this is “key” to the level of funding available to local authorities through extended producer responsibility.
In its statement, LARAC said: “Given the failings of the current PRN system in providing funding to council collections, there is a worry from local authorities that reform of the packaging system will be insufficiently robust and may not adequately fund the changes required, keeping the burden on the public purse.”
The long-awaited document confirmed that there will be a consultation on reform of the packaging regulations early next year, with a view to having an extended producer responsibility regime in place by early 2023 (see letsrecycle.com story) .
Measures which could be implemented within the new system include modulated fees to encourage producers to make “more sustainable design, production and purchasing decisions” in line with the waste hierarchy and government resources and waste priorities.
However, the strategy gives few details in terms of how this will feedback to local authorities.
According to LARAC, councils currently bear 90% of the costs of dealing with products which end up in household waste.
LARAC said it also has reservations about the prospect of mandated weekly food waste collections contained within the Strategy given there are “no concrete proposals” on how these will be funded. LARAC points out that “numerous studies” show introducing food waste collections results in increased costs to local authorities.
Carole Taylor, Chair of LARAC, said: “The focus of the Strategy in redressing the balance of funding away from the public purse and on to the producers is welcome and does not come a moment too soon.
“We will continue to work closely with Defra to support them through the next stages of this ground-breaking shift away from public sector reliance to producer accountability.”Carole Taylor
“Of course, the devil will be in the detail of the consultations, but we will continue to work closely with Defra to support them through the next stages of this ground-breaking shift away from public sector reliance to producer accountability.”
Lee Marshall, chief executive of LARAC, added: “Defra have hinted that they want to be quite prescriptive in how local authority waste operations are carried out in the future. If the funding is not forthcoming to support this then their ambitions will not get off the ground and local authorities will be left deciding which services, be that libraries, day or leisure centres they will have to reduce to pay to meet these targets.
“After years of austerity cuts and under-investment it could be the step change that is needed to build on the tremendous efforts and advances that local authorities have made in increasing recycling rates over the past 15 years.”