ADEPT denies that EPR should be delayed due to the cost of living crisis

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has today (5 August) reacted unequivocally to suggestions that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) should be abandoned because of the current cost of living crisis.

EPR scheme

Addressing the claims, the body urges that EPR cannot be delayed, reaffirming its view that the scheme will reduce emissions from managing resources, encourage a more sustainable use of materials, and minimise waste.

EPR, set for introduction in 2024, will see packaging producers and retailers take on more responsibility for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer packaging.

Part of the Environment Act 2021, EPR and the circular economy are key parts to the Government’s strategy for reaching net-zero emissions. ADEPT has stated it sees that EPR will encourage producers to reduce their packaging through presenting them with the full net costs of packaging management. This, partnered with the introduction of modulated fees, will stimulate packaging that is better designed and easier to recycle. 

The body asserts it has long argued for the cost of managing waste to be put on industry rather than straining the public purse, to incentivise better design and improve investment in UK-based reprocessing facilities and jobs.

With this, it calls for private sector investment into recycling facilities in locations like the North East, but sees that the Government needs to be doing more in order to meet its ambitions of resource efficiency and waste reduction.

Additionally, it hopes for EPR to bring more clarity to the public over what can be recycled.

Steve Read, Chair of ADEPT’s Environment Board said: “If we are serious about climate change, which is a major concern for the public, it is imperative that we introduce EPR. The premise that the cost of EPR has to be passed to consumers is frankly disingenuous – the industry could do much more to make better and more effective use of packaging.

“There is no requirement for these costs to be passed to the consumer. The cost of poor and excessive packaging has been avoided by the industry for years and it is disappointing that such a narrow perspective of how the cost of living crisis impacts on households and the most vulnerable in society is being put forward.

“When an industry doesn’t regulate itself, we need strong fiscal policies to encourage the sustainable use of precious resources. Local authorities cannot afford for EPR to be delayed when they are already under extreme financial pressure.

“Every pound spent by councils on dealing with rubbish could be better spent against the spiralling cost of social care for the elderly and vulnerable – which are only going to worsen in the coming months. Abandoning EPR will do nothing for hard hit households.

“The Government has acknowledged that economic success and environmental responsibility go hand in hand. Packaging producers and retailers must play their part in developing a truly effective and efficient resource management system and a strong UK-based innovation-led economy. EPR is an important thread in the move towards natural resource security for the UK and investment in green jobs and infrastructure.”

The reaction follows a statement from The Food and Drink Federation, published in The Sun, claiming that consumer food shops would increase by £60 per year following the rollout of EPR in 2024.

The Federation, including member companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever, deemed the introduction of EPR as inappropriate due to the current cost of living crisis already increasing food costs.

Defra has since clarified that consumers should instead expect a £41 per year increase in food prices, alongside lower costs for councils for managing materials.

The body also challenges the assumption made by the Federation that all costs for EPR’s implementation will be put onto the consumer, restating that the reforms will incentivise manufacturers to improve packaging recycling, thus allowing for EPR fees to be reduced.

A spokesperson told Resource: "We don’t recognise these figures. Taxpayers already pay to get rid of packaging waste through their council tax bills. Under EPR, the companies who put packaging on the market pay instead. If they use less packaging, or make it easier to recycle, it will cost them less too."

Cllr Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, added: "EPR is not 'red-tape', it is a critical policy that makes businesses take responsibility for producing excessive and non-recyclable packaging. It is disappointing that some parts of the food industry are resisting EPR in order to protect their bottom line.

"Instead, they should be working with local government to reduce waste and increase recycling rates as this will keep costs down for everyone. Many businesses manage to use packaging that is fully recyclable, taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill for those who fail to consider the environmental impacts of their actions.

"These industries are shirking their responsibilities and expecting council tax payers to foot the bill for their negligence, EPR is needed to give these companies more incentive to make more packaging easy to recycle. The financial pressure councils are facing means they cannot afford for EPR to be delayed, and ultimately nor can the environment."

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