This should be a big help in getting difficult to recycle and expensive plastic packaging off our supermarket shelves, driving better product design and much needed investment in refillable and reusable packaging.
Environmental campaign groups and the waste industry have largely welcomed an overhaul of England’s waste and recycling system announced by the government yesterday, but warned that it would need significant funding.
The waste and resources strategy – England’s first in a decade – proposes a raft of measures to tackle the country’s throw-away culture and boost the recyclability of products. Producers will be mandated to pay the full costs of disposal or recycling of packaging they place on the market, instead of the 10% they pay for currently.
The government also wants to see consistency in which materials can be collected for recycling, and consistent labelling on packaging. Consumers will receive financial incentives to return bottles and cans for recycling; while food waste collections will be weekly, and rolled out across the country.
Manufacturers will be encouraged to design products that last longer by mandatory guarantees and extended warranties; while food businesses will have to report food surplus and waste annually, the government has suggested.
It also wants to clamp down on waste crime by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste, and tougher penalties for waste operators breaking the law if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax.
Campaign groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the Aldersgate Group largely welcomed the proposals but wanted more detail on implementation and funding. Full details on how the new policies will be implemented is subject to consultation.
Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said that plans to ensure that companies who create and sell plastic packaging will pay for dealing with the consequences were “really encouraging”.
“This should be a big help in getting difficult to recycle and expensive plastic packaging off our supermarket shelves, driving better product design and much needed investment in refillable and reusable packaging,” she said.
However, she criticised the fact that the proposals would only enter law in 2023, a concern echoed by the Marine Conservation Society and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Libby Peake, policy adviser at think-tank the Green Alliance, wrote in a blog that the strategy showed “real ambition”, but success would depend on significant extra funding for enforcement at the Environment Agency and local authorities.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.