Environmental Audit Committee calls for action on plastic

A report released by the Environmental Audit Committee has backed the ‘polluter pays principle’, which is the key element in the Producer Responsibility regulations for packaging.

The Plastic bottles: turning back the plastic tide report concludes that greater cost responsibility should be borne by producers of packaging across the supply chain. This is after the committee heard evidence that producers only pay 10% of the cost of packaging disposal, with taxpayers being left to foot the bill for the remaining 90%.

Greater recovery note transparency

In addition to backing the principle of the Producer Responsibility system, the report goes further to explicitly endorse improved transparency of how the revenue generated through the system is invested, stating that “We support industry calls for greater transparency over how recovery note revenue is spent and recommend the Government to require all waste reprocessors to report detailed information on actions funded by recovery notes.”

The report also recommends that the government should reduce the de minimis threshold from 50 tonnes to 1 tonne, to ensure that all businesses that handle a significant amount of packaging are obligated to recycle.

However, Ecosurety commercial manager Robbie Staniforth commented “It is important that a change to the de minimis is not seen as the rescue remedy for generating funds through producer responsibility. It simply won’t create enough funds to stimulate investment in capacity, innovation and communications.”

The plastic problem

A key focus of the report is that plastic bottle recycling rates have plateaued in the last five years and household recycling rates are deteriorating. British consumers use 13bn plastic bottles a year, whilst only approximately 7.5bn are recycled – a pertinent issue with plastic bottles making up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea. 

To combat this a number of measures are put forward in the report. A recommendation is made that Government should phase in a mandated minimum 50% rPET content for the production of new plastic bottles by 2023 to help create a stronger UK market for recycled plastic. Currently this market can be all too easily influenced by low oil prices that make virgin plastic cheaper, as such it is hoped that introducing this legislation would help to create a circular economy for plastic that captures as much waste as possible.

A UK-wide Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is also recommended, however only a handful of major producers have publicly backed such a scheme so far. A requirement to provide free drinking water in public premises is detailed in the report to encourage a shift in the behaviour of consumers to use refillable water containers, as opposed to single-use bottles.

Producer Responsibility in the spotlight

“It’s a shame that compliance schemes, who are the nation’s experts in Producer Responsibility, weren’t asked to give evidence. However, the outcome of the report is what we expected and firmly puts Producer Responsibility in the spotlight.” commented Robbie.

“We look forward to collaborating to re-design the Producer Responsibility system in the UK and we’re glad industry and politicians have finally picked-up on the message we’ve been championing for years.”

The full report and summaries can be found here.

Ben Luger

Marketing projects specialist

Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.

Written by Ben Luger Published 22/12/2017 Topics Packaging

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