Government releases briefing paper on plastic waste

The House of Commons Library research service have released a useful and comprehensive briefing paper that outlines the current and future governmental strategies for dealing with plastic waste.

The research service is a body that provides impartial evidence and briefs for MPs and other parliamentary figures, on key issues that are under scrutiny or undergoing legislative changes.

Plastic waste has been hugely visible on the environmental agenda in recent years, with Theresa May previously announcing the governmental ambition to “(…)work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reuseable and compostable by 2025”.

As such, the multitude of policies and initiatives to tackle the plastics issue can sometimes seem quite complex, but nonetheless necessary, if the additional UK target to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042 is to be achieved.

All relevant existing and proposed policy amendments relating to plastic waste are covered in the brief (downloadable at the end of this page), alongside information concerning important consultatory stages and regulatory differences between the devolved administrations.

Upcoming legislative changes

Importantly in section 6 , ‘Next Steps’,  the document outlines upcoming legislative changes that will be pertinent to plastic packaging producers, summarised as follows:

  • The Plastic packaging tax - the report includes a summary of all the key documentation and decisions surrounding the tax, and governmental intention to publish secondary draft legislation in the future.
  • Packaging producer responsibility reform - the report details how in light of criticisms surrounding the current producer responsibility system, government pledged to overhaul the policy landscape with mechanisms outlined in the 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy the result, which includes Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging. Amendments to the producer responsibility rules can be found in the 2019-2021 Environment Bill.
  • Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers - the report details how the DRS is a result of Government rejecting plans for a disposable cup levy, as a DRS instrument was thought to better fit into the EPR regime. The Scottish DRS has already been implemented, and in England it is expected to be in 2023 alongside the packaging reforms mentioned above, although it has not been yet confirmed whether disposable cups will be in included.
  • Ban on plastic straws, cotton-buds and stirrers - after delays due to the Coronavirus this was implemented in October 2020. The report confirms that government is planning to do a ‘stock take’ this year to ensure the measure has been effective.
  • Plastic carrier-bag charge - Government announced last year it would extend the charge to all retailers, not just those who employ over 250 people.

A useful touchstone for producers

After detailing strategies specific to the UK, the report goes on to summarize EU plastics policies, including the Single Use Plastic Directive, voluntary initiatives, including the UK Plastics Pact, and the impact of Coronavirus.

The report estimates that five million tonnes of plastic are used every year, of which nearly half is comprised of packaging. Therefore, the brief can be used as a useful touchstone for producers of plastic packaging, or other industry stakeholders, to both anticipate future changes and understand the relevant legislative landscape.

As always, Ecosurety will be proactively engaged with stakeholders and governing bodies alike to help steer future policy outcomes toward the best results for the recycling industry and greater transparency.

We are working with industry and HMRC to gain greater clarity on the plastic packaging tax, and anticipating the second consultation for EPR in quarter one of this year, alongside engaging with the current modulated fee working group. We are also looking forward to contributing and sharing feedback on future changes to the WEEE and Battery regulations.

In addition to downloading the briefing paper below, you can also request our previous consultation responses to EPR here - and please do contact our team with any queries or requests for further information.

Download the briefing paper


Louisa Goodfellow

Policy Manager

As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 08/01/2021 Topics Packaging
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