UK Governments release much anticipated second round of packaging consultations

After much anticipation, UK Governments have released the second round of consultations for reforming the packaging producer responsibility system today. 

The first set were released just over two years ago, in line with commitments made in the Resources and Waste Strategy. The latest consultations represent a crucial opportunity for stakeholders to shape what constitutes a major overhaul in waste packaging legislation, and respondents are given a 10.5 week time-frame in which to feedback to government, with a deadline of 4 June.

The proposed reform in packaging waste legislation is comprised of three discrete policy frameworks: reforming the packaging producer responsibility system; a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers in England; and introducing consistency in local authority household waste collections in England.

In the first round, the three consultations were released simultaneously. This time however the consultation surrounding consistent household collections will be released at a later date, due to delays.

Below are summarised the key decisions and questions presented in the two consultations.

Consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging

The current PRN system for packaging waste has been much maligned in recent years and thought to be no longer fit for purpose. The first consultation proposed a much more comprehensive producer responsibility system, whereby businesses are made liable for the full net cost of their packaging waste, fulfilling the ‘producer pays principle’.

There were also questions surrounding government aims to increase the recyclability of packaging waste, and unnecessary product use.

This second consultation sets out that:

  • There will be a single point of compliance, unlike the current system. However, UK Governments are seeking views as to whether the current ‘small producer’ threshold should be changed, or if the compliance point should be moved further up the supply chain.
  • Producers will be financially responsible for the entirety of their packaging waste. This means payments for household and business recycling, costs associated with litter and communications. The consultation confirms government’s commitment for a modulated fee approach, which will be operational by 2024.
  • Based on the modulated fee assessment, a binary label system will be operational by 2024/2025. There is one exception for films, which will be instigated later in 2026/2027 after consistent collections are in operation.
  • UK Governments will decide how EPR is governed after the consultation and research on how business payments will work. The consultation seeks feedback on how important cost certainty may be for producers, and sets out compliance scheme and scheme administrator approval processes.
  • The consultation seeks views as to whether it is feasible that the first phase of EPR is operational by Autumn 2023, and that producers start reporting by 2022.

You can find the consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging here

Consultation on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The first consultation on introducing a DRS for England, Wales and Northern Ireland asked stakeholders’ opinions on the scope, design and operational logistics of a scheme. Although it has now been confirmed the DRS implementation will be delayed until 2024, the consultation shows decision-making has been underway.

This second consultation sets out that:

  • UK Governments have decided the DRS will be based on material type, and that the in-scope materials will be PET plastic bottles, glass bottles and steel and aluminium cans. This follows the Scottish approach, whose DRS will be implemented earlier.
  • The consultation asks for views as to whether an ‘all-in’ approach should be taken (containers up to 3L in capacity) or ‘on the go’ only (containers under 750ml capacity).
  • The consultation proposes that a 90% collection target for in-scope containers be set after 3 years, and that the Deposit Management Organisation (DMO) will be legally responsible for achieving it.
  • The DMO will both have the capacity to employ levers to ensure an efficient system, and be fully accountable for targets. This will be achieved through a mix of regulation and government contracting. The DMO will be appointed via competitive tendering.
  • The consultations asks for views as to whether unredeemed deposits should part-fund the DMO, or whether this should be done in conjunction with an annual producer fee. It also seeks views on the deposit level.
  • It suggests that all retailers should be obligated to host return points, whether they be in the form of reverse vending machines or in-store take back, and seeks views on online retailer responsibilities.

You can find the consultation on a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland here

Consistent household collections

Household recycling rates in England have plateaued for years. The lack of consistency between local authority material and food waste collections adds to this issue, whilst also being a source of frustration for many.

The first consultation two years ago contained questions surrounding this whilst also highlighting the need to incentivise local authorities to expand their collection and recycling services, and for the UK as a whole to produce uncontaminated and unmixed waste streams for exports.

We are hopeful that the forthcoming consultation will expand on these topics soon, especially since there is need for overlap with the other consultations as it is integral to EPR and a DRS.

Essential that all sectors are represented

Head of Policy and innovation, Robbie Staniforth, commented "Ecosurety welcomes the launch of these vital consultations, yet feels it is unfortunate that the Consistent Collection consultation which is intrinsic to the overall functioning of the packaging waste system has not been launched alongside EPR and DRS. Given the shortened consultation period, we hope there is significant overlap of the consultations and that the Government’s views on consistent collections in England are made apparent soon."

"Thanks to UK Governments’ extensive engagement plan over the last 18 months, much of the content of these consultations is very familiar, with Ecosurety's input on certain aspects of the EPR system’s design clearly having been taken into consideration. We look forward to exchanging views with all stakeholders over the forthcoming weeks, with a view to ensuring the new system is workable from go-live."

"Bearing in mind the outcomes of the EPR consultation will define the packaging waste system in place for several decades, it is essential that all sectors are well represented and they reply to the consultation directly."

Why should I respond?

The consultations are open to responses from anyone, not just technical experts. It is crucial there is a wide range of respondents with an equal representation of views to achieve the best regulatory outcome.

It is important that all those affected are fairly represented during decision-making and we recommend all producers to submit their own individual response to the consultations. We can provide you with guidance and assistance throughout the whole process if you plan to directly feedback to the consultations.

Get up to speed with our free webinars

We are presenting free webinars to get you up to speed on each of the consultations, including the key facts you need to know, how you could be impacted and how you can respond. Each webinar will also include a Q&A session at the end where you can ask our team any questions you may have. Please use the links below to find out more and to book your place:

Overview of the packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) consultation
1.30pm - 3.00pm on 22 April
Click here to book now

Overview of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) consultation
1.30pm - 3.00pm on 23 April
Click here to book now

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about the consultations, please contact our team.

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 24/03/2021 Topics Consultations
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