A senior Defra official has reassured stakeholders that they will be given ‘adequate time’ to respond to consultations on the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.
Chris Preston, deputy director for waste and recycling at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) made the comments at the Resources and Waste Strategy Unwrapped Conference in London yesterday (13 February).
Consultation is expected imminently on four components of the Strategy, first outlined in December (see letsrecycle.com story); a deposit return scheme; household recycling consistency; overhaul of the packaging producer responsibility system; and the plastics tax on non-recycled content packaging.
During his presentation, Mr Preston explained that elements of the Strategy – such as the proposals around extended producer responsibility – are likely to be included in Environment Bill. The Bill is in its early stages of being drafted.
“You may have seen just before Christmas that the government published an outline of the other areas that might be in the Environment Bill – one of which was resources and waste,” he said.
“Many of the reforms that we want to put in place will need new legislation and the vehicle will hopefully be the Environment Bill. In terms of the consultation periods, that will be driven by making sure that we have done some of the consultation before the Bill to support the Bill’s integration.”
Despite calls for delays to the consultations from the food and farming sectors this week (see letsrecycle.com story), publication is expected to happen soon. Food waste was one topic of discussion in Cabinet on Monday, and it is thought that the strategy documents could now have been approved by Cabinet after discussion of concerns about its impact on local authorities were raised by James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government
At the conference, some in the audience questioned whether stakeholders will have sufficient time respond to respond to the consultation, with fears that a short consultation period could limit responses.
“This is the first step in a big process. Someone said to me that this is one of the biggest reforms since the Environmental Protection Act in 1990 and I would agree, these are fairly big fundamental reforms.”Chris Preston
Mr Preston said: “This is the first step in a big process. Someone said to me that this is one of the biggest reforms since the Environmental Protection Act in 1990 and I would agree, these are fairly big fundamental reforms. This won’t be the final say, either, there will be opportunities further down the line. This will help us to shape our thinking, help us to shape any regulation or legislation, but obviously then at the implementation point we will consult again in the future.”
The Defra official also said that there would be consultation on plans for food waste collections, which the strategy says councils will have to provide, later this year. And, he emphasised that in terms of recycling infrastructure, “ministers want to see more domestic reprocessing”.
Further indication of the scale of the reforms being considered by government was offered by the Conference’s second speaker, head of energy and environmental tax at HM Treasury, Jonathan Travis.
Mr Travis outlined details of the proposals being considered by the Treasury for the introduction of a tax on plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled content. This is expected to be in effect from 2023.
He explained that the Treasury will be running its own consultation alongside Defra’s. It is likely to outline the scope of the tax, definitions of recycled content and further detail of how the measure will be implemented.
Mr Travis, said: “We want the tax to apply to people who have recycled plastic in their products less than a certain threshold. We need to set what counts as recycled content. Should we be looking at post-consumer material or material from other manufacturing processes?
“We would also set out how we expect companies to prove they have used recycled content in their products.”
Packaging & Producer Responsibility
On the extended producer responsibility side, Phil Conran, chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) detailed recommendations that have been put forward for a reformed system of packaging compliance.
He explained that requirements to reform the producer responsibility system stem from the EU’s Circular Economy package – which, he said: “redefines what producer responsibility has to achieve.” These are likely to lead to increased costs for producers, than currently paid through the existing system.
“The big change is that we will move towards a system that requires the cost of separate collection and treatment to be paid for by producers,” he said. “This moves from the system of supply and demand to a system where the actual cost has to be paid by producers.”
The ACP has put forward three recommendations, for how a reformed producer responsibility regime could function. A fourth option is also being considered, which has been added by government. These four options could form the centre of the consultation on packaging.
Option 1 Compliance schemes contract directly with councils for evidence. A central body sets a modulated fee that will be charged to the producers.
Option 2 A central body carries out data management and fee transactions between producers and collectors. The central body sets the modulated fees and manages the registration of producers and the evidence process.
Option 3 Similar to option 2 for household packaging but with the potential for separate targets for commercial and industrial waste. Compliance schemes manage the commercial and industrial packaging separately to household packaging, which is managed by a central body.
Option 4 A market based system, whereby producers pay a deposit in relation to the packaging they have placed onto the market. They then secure evidence of reprocessing and claim back from the depository based on what they have been able to recycle.
- Resources and Waste Strategy Unwrapped took place at the Congress Centre in London. The Conference was delivered by INCPEN, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, Environmental Services Association, Resource Association and WRAP, and organised by Environment Media Group, the parent company of letsrecycle.com. The Headline sponsor for the event was FCC Environment, with additional sponsorship from Brolube, Company Shop, Suez and Tegos Group.