Businesses and manufacturers in the UK will pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste, under a major strategy unveiled by the country’s government today.
The move aims to overhaul England’s waste system and put “a legal onus on those responsible for producing damaging waste to take greater responsibility”.
The announcement forms part of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, which will also see the introduction of annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses. The government said that should progress be insufficient, it will consult on introducing mandatory targets for food waste prevention.
Subject to consultation, a deposit return scheme will also be launched to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers, including bottles, cans, and disposable cups.
UK environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.
“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.
“Through this plan, we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
To help drive up recycling levels further, the government will introduce a consistent set of recyclable material for collection, subject to consultation. This will be funded by industry through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which will see industry pay higher fees if products are harder to reuse, repair or recycle and will encourage sustainable design, subject to consultation.
It is estimated EPR for packaging will raise between £500 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.
The announcement follows proposals earlier this year to introduce a tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from 2022. This seeks to address the issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
Speaking at Veolia’s waste management facility in London, Veolia chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman said: “The government has listened to industry and these steps have the clear potential to dramatically change the way the sector operates to increase recycling and recovery rates.
“With consistent collections and advanced facilities like this at Southwark, more recyclable materials can be collected for reprocessing into new products. As a business, we are ready to invest, to take advantage of new technology, build more infrastructure and work with brand owners and local authorities to harness resources on an industrial scale.
“It’s the direction we have been hoping and waiting for, and with the public and businesses playing their part the UK can build a sustainable future.”
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