Defra launches consultations set to overhaul the UK's waste system

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
Environment secretary Michael Gove at a Veolia facility

Defra has launched a series of consultations intended to ‘overhaul’ the UK’s waste system.

They will focus on making packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with waste, a plastic packaging tax, introducing a consistent set of materials collected across England for recycling and introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS).

These will make up a key part of government’s upcoming Environment Bill, which will be introduced before the summer holidays.

Consultation details will include consistent labelling on packaging for consumers to fully understand what can and cannot be recycled.

However the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said the consultation focuses on resident confusion when it ought to look at material type, which it argued needed to be addressed more urgently than the collection process.

Introducing comprehensive and frequent collections will create more reliable services for householders while retaining local flexibility, Defra said.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging is also predicted to raise between £800 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.

Separate weekly food waste collections are planned to be introduced, plus the possibility of free garden waste collections for households with gardens.

Two different models for a DRS, “all-in” or “on-the-go”, will be considered, plus a tax on plastic packaging which doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content.

This will be introduced from April 2022.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Through our plans we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste, and end the confusion over household recycling.

“We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

INCPEN CEO Paul Vanston called for unity across the sector during the consultation period.

He said: “No single organisation or sector should wish to seek advantage for themselves at the costs of others in the very same supply chain – INCPEN won’t be doing that.

“It’s also critical there is a four-way agreement between the nations on the new systems that are implemented…ministers across the nations must work hard with the whole supply chain to implement UK-wide systems.”

Defra will seek views on its plans for the next 12 weeks.

The consultations are based on plans set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, published in December 2018.

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