Preparations for the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy are continuing with some key components of the strategy still under consideration, Defra’s packaging committee has heard.
Defra – the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs – is developing final policy proposals for the Strategy over the remainder of this year, and officials expect that the government will bring forward fresh consultations on firm plans in early 2020.
Defra officials delivered an update on the strategy’s progress to members of its Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) at a meeting last month (July) – confirming that previously agreed timetables for the delivery of the Strategy are expected to be met, subject to approval by ministers.
During the meeting officials also outlined the ongoing evidence work being carried out on behalf of the Department to underpin the final plans.
Last month, Defra set out details of its proposed direction for some elements of the Strategy, as well as a summary of the responses received in reply to its consultations on the deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks packaging, extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging and consistency in recycling collections. At the meeting, Defra said it felt that responses to the consultations were ‘broadly in favour’ of the proposals.
On EPR, Defra confirmed at the July meeting that evidence work is being carried out to prepare the ground for its proposals to introduce a system using ‘modulated fees’ for packaging waste compliance. This would see packaging producers pay costs based upon the recyclability of the packaging they place onto the market.
Modulated fees were one of two options outlined in the government’s EPR consultation in February, alongside a system where producers pay a deposit and are refunded based on the recyclability of their products.
The meeting also heard that further work is being carried out to understand the impact of a mandatory recycling labelling scheme for products, as well as wider work to understand the impact of the policy proposals on UK secondary markets and infrastructure.
On a plastic packaging tax, which is a further measure expected to be introduced by the government through the Strategy, the July ACP meeting was told that the Treasury is working towards the implementation of the tax in 2022. This is a year earlier than the expected 2023 start date for the EPR measures.
The tax is among the recycling ‘pull’ measures within the Resources and Waste Strategy, and will set a 30% threshold for recycled content in new plastic packaging, which could potentially rise in future.
Deposit return scheme
Defra also told the ACP meeting that it believes there is ‘strong overall support’ for its DRS proposals in light of the consultation, although the meeting heard that further work is being done on the options for the system, in spite of former Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s backing for an ‘all-in’ DRS, before he left the role.
Defra is also considering whether online retailers will be included in the DRS, and how infrastructure required for the system will be financed.
Minutes from the ACP meeting, which were published this week, indicate that officials were questioned over the proposals around recycling consistency, which are also expected to be implemented from 2023.
The recycling consistency portion of the strategy will see local authorities required to collect a core set of materials from households.
ACP heard that, despite the Department already having outlined its preference for which materials should be included in the list, further consultation on the detail and statutory guidance will be required. Some materials currently not on the list – such as cartons – remain under consideration as to whether they will be included in the packaging consistency regime or not.
Questions were also raised over what separate collections actually meant, especially with regard to whether commingling will be permissible under the new system as a type of separation collection. Defra said that these issues will be covered within the core guidance.
ACP July 23 Meeting minutes