The government has launched a long-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy to overhaul the UK’s struggling recycling system and put more responsibility on producers to foot the bill.
The strategy is the first comprehensive update of government resources and waste policy for more than a decade.
The new plans will introduce consistent recycling criteria for all households and businesses to drive up recycling rates, and force manufacturers to take greater responsibility for their products and packaging at end-of-life.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said the strategy would move the UK away from being a “throw-away society” and make it a “world leader in resource efficiency”.
Subject to consultation, a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) arrangement for packaging by 2023 will see industry pay higher fees for recovering their unsustainable packaging at end-of-life, which will raise between £500 million and £1 billion a year for improved recycling and disposal.
The current EPR system for packaging only recovers around 10 per cent of the costs of managing packaging waste, with the rest of the bill footed by the taxpayer. The reformed system will recover the full net costs from producers, an approach already being used in some European countries.
While packaging is the government’s immediate priority, the strategy also commits to action in several other areas, including prioritising sustainability in public procurement, reducing food waste and exploring mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on other products to encourage manufacturers to design products that last longer.
By 2025, the government also hopes to have consulted on five new EPR schemes for textiles, bulky waste such as mattresses and furniture, certain construction materials, vehicle tyres and fishing gear.
Roz Bulleid, head of climate, energy and environment policy at EEF said:
"Manufacturers are keen to play their part in the circular economy and are pleased to finally see more detail from the government on its plans.
“More consistent waste and recycling collections and better product labelling should help lead to an improvement in the quality of recycled material, making it a more promising option for manufacturers.
“However, EEF's members will be concerned about the potential cost implications of some proposals, particularly around extended producer responsibility, mandatory guarantees and extended warranties, and anxious to engage with government on the detail of its plans."
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