UK government unveils Resources and Waste Strategy

Producers will pay the full cost of recycling and disposing their packaging under new rules unveiled today in the UK government’s long-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy.

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Manufacturers and businesses will also be expected to take more responsibility for items that can be harder or costly to recycle, including cars, electrical goods and batteries.

The government said it was looking to “overhaul England’s waste system” by simplifying recycling for UK homes and introducing a consistent approach with more frequent collections.

Mandatory food waste prevention targets for businesses could also come into force, while proposals to clamp down on the illegal movement of waste using electronic tracking were unveiled.

Environment secretary, Michael Gove, said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.

“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.”

It is estimated that the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach will raise between £500m and £1bn a year for recycling and disposal of packaging, which will be used to fund more frequent household collections.

The government said producers would pay the full net costs of disposing or recycling the packaging they place on the market under the new rules, up from just 10% today.

It also reiterated its desire to introduce a deposit return scheme, subject to consultation, to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans, and disposable cups filled at the point of sale.

Businesses will be required to report their food surplus and waste each year, with mandatory targets introduced should progress be insufficient, while homes could get weekly collections for food waste.

Rogue waste crime operators will face tougher penalties if they mislabel materials to dodge tax rules, while compulsory electronic tracking will clamp down on illegal movements of waste.

There are also proposals to improve the UK’s natural resource security, potentially creating a National Materials ‘Datahub’ to help businesses understand and mitigate the risks in raw material supply chains.

The strategy sits alongside the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, Bioeconomy Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy, and was welcomed by sustainability body IEMA.

Chief policy advisor, Martin Baxter, said: "We are very pleased to finally get a look at the detail of the strategy, and happy to see that many of our own recommendations set out earlier this year are mirrored in the government’s proposals.

“We welcome the government’s new strategy, which seeks to incentivise businesses to take responsibility for the environmental and financial costs of waste. We also welcome a focus on resource security, vital if the full potential of the government’s ambitious Industrial Strategy is to be realised."

In a related recommendations paper published earlier in 2018, IEMA advocated the need to set resource utilisation against economic indicators. It said that, instead of focusing on waste minimisation, these indicators would help to showcase the business case for minimising resource use while promoting resource productivity.

“We look forward to working with our members to support implementation of the government’s strategy,” Baxter continued.

“This has presented the UK with an entirely new focus on resource efficiency, productivity and security, which, as we edge ever closer to exiting the EU, is more important than ever."

 

Image credit | iStock
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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