Any government plans for packaging reform, including those set out in the upcoming Resources and Waste Strategy, will take “a number of years” before being implemented into UK law.
That’s according to Paul Bradley, team leader for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Packaging Reform at Defra, who was speaking at the RWM Exhibition yesterday (12 September).
Mr Bradley was discussing some of the work Defra has been doing with regards to packaging reform, including upcoming consultations and what the department is working on in the Waste Strategy, which is expected to be released later this year.
Mr Bradley explained that packaging reform will be the “flagship policy” of the upcoming Resources Strategy, with PRN reform forming a major part of that.
He said: “Our approach, we will break down things down into three areas. These are production, so how we can make products more resource efficient; how consumers purchase and use products and then waste management, so how this is dealt with once disposed of.”
With regards to the PRN reform, Mr Bradley explained that the department is aware of concerns that the current system “isn’t fit for delivering in a future world”. In response, he explained that his team is not looking at simply tweaking the system, but “making one that works”.
“We are and will be considering full cost recovery,” he explained.
Mr Bradley added: “I have heard a broad range of interpretations as to what circular economy package means, we will form our own view and set that out in consultation document.”
In terms of governance, he said there are two approaches, one being a ‘PRN Plus’ business-approach, and the other a ‘non-profit’ way of running the system.
For the former, Mr Bradley explained this would see compliance schemes have “a greater role in terms of engagement with local authorities and businesses”, in a similar way the WEEE system does now.
”Some compliance schemes we have spoken to have likened it to the current WEEE model but in this world schemes can get into relationships with local authorities and others to meet producers obligations,” he stated.
Another business style approach, according to Mr Bradley, could see producers are charged a fee upfront to place something onto the market, with this then refunded when the product is proved to have been recycled. He says this would provide “greater impetus up front” for prevention and recycling.
This approach would still require evidence of recycling , which may still be referred to as a PRN, but Mr Bradley stated that this has not been decided.
“It could be through compliance schemes, or businesses themselves. This is something that can be explored in consultation documents,” Mr Bradley added.
The non-profit approach, according to Mr Bradley, would see “some sort of single producer organisation or administrator” dealing with municipal-like packaging, and the other half of the market through a PRN system similar to that which we have now. Alternatively, a single organisation would cover the entire sector.
“There are questions about how this will be producer owned or led, or government bodies agencies or a combination of the two. Those are things we will look to take stakeholder views on.”
When quizzed about whether or not the department will be consulting on the Waste Strategy itself, Mr Bradley went on to say that there will be no consultation on the contents of the strategy, explaining that it will set out policies of what the departments wants to do and how it will look to do that, and ideas which may later be consulted on.
Mr Bradley concluded: “We are consulting later this year and need time to legislate for a new system, which can take anywhere from a year to two. In some systems you may also need new IT and government bodies etc, which will take longer. The timetable will become clearer once we set out or final approach but it won’t suddenly be in force next year.
“As part of consultation we will pick up interim targets which will need to be set out for a transition period. These will look to go beyond some of those already set at EU level.”