‘Consistent recycling collections’ reform rebranded ‘Simpler recycling’ by Defra

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the scaling back of various Net Zero policies, including the announcement that he was scrapping ‘seven bins per household’ to improve recycling.

In a newsletter released shortly after the speech, Defra communicated their plans to amend the policy proposals formerly known as ‘Consistent recycling collections’ to ‘Simpler recycling’.

The former policy, which outlined plans for consistent household and business recycling collections in England, has been publicly consulted on twice since 2019. It proposed that all local authorities should be obliged to separately collect a suite of eight waste materials, including food and drink cartons and aerosol cans by 2026, with films and flexible plastics a year later.

Whilst there is not much detail yet about how the existing plans have changed, the newsletter sent by Defra yesterday evening states that ‘simpler recycling’ is a “new pragmatic approach to boost recycling rates and put the long-term interests of our country first…[it is] a plan which scraps the top-down approach, ensures a requirement to recycle with seven bins will not happen and brings forward a smarter approach that responds to feedback and forges a new path on reuse and recycling.”

The announcement goes on to state that homes in England will still have a consistent set of materials collected from the kerbside, to alleviate issues resulting from the ‘postcode lottery’ and householder confusion surrounding recyclable and non-recyclable waste. However, these materials won’t need to be sorted at the home.

Simpler recycling plans unclear

How government will ‘ensure all homes in England recycle the same materials’ under the new simpler recycling plan is currently unclear until further announcements are made by Defra, and local authorities will be waiting to hear if, and what, new obligations will be placed on their collection and sorting services.

Consistent recycling collection nationwide is an important piece of the suite of policies known as the packaging reforms, which also includes Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging starting this year, and UK-wide Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) in 2025.

Increased clean streams of recyclable material from households will contribute towards more ambitious recycling targets proposed in the coming years. It should help with investment in reprocessing infrastructure in the UK, and in turn support packaging producers obligated under EPR by ensuring their packaging can be labelled as recyclable.

Innovation and policy director Robbie Staniforth commented "The Prime Minister announced that he is scrapping a policy that no-one thought he was seriously considering anyway. Several times over the last five years, it has been reaffirmed that Defra are only looking to standardise what materials are collected in England, not how they are collected. As had always been planned, even before this announcement was made, councils will have the freedom to choose how they collect the various mandated materials."

"Yes, it is a shame that recycling is not being standardised further, but this is not new news in the slightest. What we are disappointed about is that the Government have still not published their ‘Simpler Recycling’ policy. Until we get absolute clarity from Government, we cannot build an improved system that delivers better recycling."

Find more about packaging EPR here, including how we can help you prepare your business, collect the required data, comply with the regulations and improve your packaging.

Written by Louisa Goodfellow Published 21/09/2023 Topics Packaging
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