The reform to the UK waste management system is part of the government's Environment Bill summer policy statement, setting out a raft of new proposals
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove has set out new proposals to transform the country’s waste management system.
They would include powers to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) – in which a levy is added to plastic drinks bottles but can be claimed back by consumers who return them to a specified location for recycling – in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2023.
Packaging manufacturers currently pay 10% towards the cost of collecting and disposing of their products but, under new extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, they would bear the full amount.
Also announced as part of the bill was government legislation to introduce a set of uniform rules on recycling collection across the country.
The announcement was made as part of Defra’s summer policy statement, which also included legislation to improve air quality and the enhancement of green spaces.
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Credit: Policy Exchange, Flickr)
Gove said: “We know we must do all we can to protect our precious natural environment.
“There is a clear need to act to ensure we do not leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous and denuded of its natural riches.
“The measures in our Environment Bill will position the UK as a world leader, ensuring that after EU exit, environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.
“Our plans will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.”
UK waste system reform needs improvement in quality and quantity
Jacob Hayler, executive director of trade organisation Environmental Service Association (ESA), believes producer responsibility reform must place strong incentives on manufacturers to design their packaging with recycling in mind.
He said: “The publication of responses to the Resources and Waste Strategy consultations show that momentum is building around the circular economy, and sends a clear message to the incoming Prime Minister that he must be bold in implementing, and where possible accelerating, the proposals.
“It is crucial that the quality as well as quantity of the materials we send for recycling is improved.
“To that end, producer responsibility reform must place strong incentives on producers to design their packaging for recycling.
“Consistent collections should also be fast-tracked as quickly as possible to eliminate consumer confusion and reduce contamination.
“However, there is no point collecting more material if there is no demand for it. The plastics tax is therefore a positive first step in helping us close the loop and stimulate domestic reprocessing.”
Hayler also said that, however DRS looks in practice – “all-in” for every single bottle or “on-the-go” for smaller items – recycling facilities and collectors must have a close association with one another.
He added: “A deposit return scheme has the potential to complement these measures in capturing commonly littered and unrecycled materials, so it is important that whatever form it takes, the whole system can work together.
“These early indications on the details of the Resources and Waste Strategy are promising.
“Clearly, further work is needed to ensure the proposals are cost-effective and deliver the right outcomes.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Defra and the Treasury to design a system that ensures resources are properly stewarded whilst boosting the economy and providing green jobs.”