Sector ramps up pressure over business waste

Producers are concerned that they are being asked to pay into business waste plans which “have been thrown out there in the hope they work”, according to Paul Vanston.

There has been strong opposition to Defra's plans for the collection of packaging from businesses

Speaking during a panel discussion at Letsrecycle Live on 16 September, the chief executive of the packaging industry organisation INCPEN, warned that producers are concerned about the scheme and how it would work.

The panel discussion also heard that Defra observed a meeting three days ago where industry executives discussed a so called ‘fifth option’, which was put forward by trade association UROC last month (see letsrecycle.com story).

The session took place just hours before the Environmental Services Association (ESA) penned a letter to the environment secretary George Eustice for a second time to voice remaining “significant doubts” about the current proposals.

Proposals

There has been mounting pressure on Defra over its proposals, estimated to cost £1.5 billion, which commercial waste companies say leave them facing an “existential threat” if they go ahead.

There has been strong opposition to Defra’s plans for the collection of packaging from businesses

Defra set out its plans to enable businesses to receive a rebate for packaging waste in its extended producer responsibility (EPR) consultation earlier this year.

The consultation sets out three payment mechanisms for the scheme, which will see businesses receive rebates, funded by producers, for packaging waste collected in order to bring the costs as “close to zero as possible” (see letsrecycle.com story).

A fourth was later considered by Defra and a fifth then put forward by UROC (see letsrecycle.com story).

Defra’s next steps for the the complex plans are set to be unveiled when the second round consultation responses are released before the end of the year.

Producers

Summarising the views of INCPEN’s members, Mr Vanston said: “Defra has to be certain that any system which is going to add £100 per year onto annual shopping bills, and cost an un-caped amount of money, delivers effective change, and I’m not sure this does.

“We are expected to hit a 76% recycling rate for packaging by 2026/27, and we should be asking how are we going to do this. We should focus on how to hit targets and the route map for doing this.

“At the moment, producers are frustrated because this route map is going nowhere but the money discussions are consistently ongoing.

Businesses need assurance that they are not paying for things that a just thrown out there in hope they will work

Paul Vanston

“Businesses need assurance that they are not paying for things that a just thrown out there in hope they will work, and this seems to be the case for business waste proposals, which are being funded by producers”.

Fifth option

Tom Mockridge, director of the BPR group, explained more about UROC’s fifth option.

He said a Defra official had sat in on a meeting on Monday when the plans were discussed.

Mr Mockridge stated that this alternative proposal includes a voucher scheme, where businesses will receive a reduction on their packaging recycling which will be redeemed by their waste collection provider, and “this would ensure that the private sector continues to provide services”.

Reform

Simon Ellin of the Recycling Association said the fifth option has legs, and said the business waste system need a “nip and tuck” rather than the complete transformation which is being proposed.

Business waste collections could be carried out by local authorities if the plans go ahead

From the compliance scheme perspective, Pal Van Danzig of Wastepack raised the issue of legality, and said moving business waste collections from the private sector to local authorities would be anti-competitive.

Meanwhile, Robbie Staniforth of Ecosurety said while the fifth proposal could work, there are lingering doubts that small businesses would use vouchers.

ESA

Soon after the session concluded, the ESA announced that it has joined with thirteen other national trade bodies and associations representing packaging manufacturers and recycler in writing to the government over the plans.

According to the ESA, industry stakeholders believe that proposals to incorporate packaging waste from businesses within the EPR regime have not received sufficient consideration to date and have expressed concern about a lack of transparency around the data underpinning Defra’s analysis – which have not been shared with industry despite repeated requests.

The open letter, seen below, was also signed by INCPEN, the Food and Drink Federation, the Food Services Packaging, among others.

Useful links

Letter to the environment secretary George Eustice on business waste proposals.

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