In an announcement this morning, the Welsh government said it has “joined forces” with other UK nations to introduce a “polluter pays” system to make producers responsible for costs.
Alongside Scotland, Wales will make producers responsible for the most commonly littered items that “scourge streets, communities and the countryside”, and cover the clean-up costs.
This will differ from the approach taken by Defra for England and Northern Ireland, where ground litter is not covered but costs will be covered for the managing of packaging likely to be disposed of in street bins.
The Welsh DRS, alongside that in Scotland, will also include glass bottles. This will not be the case in England and Northern Ireland.
Wales’s deputy minister for climate change, Lee Waters, said: “We’re proud to be introducing these landmark changes which will lead producers to think about the packaging they are putting on the market and help to incentivise recycling, alongside our fellow governments in the UK.
“We are going further again, by committing to charge producers if their items are commonly littered.”
He added: “With a Team Wales effort we can create a real circular economy where we recycle and reuse, strengthening our local supply chains, reducing our reliance on imports and protecting the planet.”
The Welsh Government has ambitious plans to become a Zero Waste Nation by 2050
– Welsh Government
The statement from the Welsh Government explained: “The Welsh Government has ambitious plans to become a Zero Waste Nation by 2050 and is currently driving the move to a circular economy – where waste is turned into a resource and kept in use for as long as possible.
“As well as cutting damaging CO2 emissions that lead to climate change and the pollution of our wildlife habitats, a circular economy model will build resilience in Wales’s supply chains as it cuts the reliance of imports from overseas.”
The announcement from the Welsh government follows Defra setting out its plans for EPR last week, which included a “UK-wide approach”.
Defra opted against making producers pay for ground litter in England and Northern Ireland to “reduce the complexity of the EPR scheme to be introduced from 2024 and reduce burdens on producers”.
However, it added that the Scottish and Welsh governments felt this would incentivise producers to reduce the amount of single-use packaging they use and take other steps to prevent litter arising.
Northern Ireland will keep litter payments under review with a view to wider implementation in the future.
Respondents to the DRS consultation in England highlighted the potential increase in handling costs and equipment complexity that comes from collecting glass bottles via a DRS.
The responses warned that reverse vending machines will need to be emptied more frequently and will carry safety risks associated with handling broken glass.
The weight of glass and the potential for breakages also poses consumer safety issues in transporting glass bottles to return points.
These concerns prompted Defra to drop glass bottles for England and Northern Ireland.
For Wales, Defra said: “Welsh Government considered the impact of a DRS against the baseline recycling rate in Wales, and the statutory requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the overarching commitments to become a net zero carbon and zero-waste nation by 2050.”
Other factors included consultation responses requesting the inclusion of as wide a range of materials as possible, advances in digital DRS technology solutions that could allow bottle deposit return via existing kerbside collection infrastructure, and an overall better return rate.