Defra excluding textiles from EPR plans ‘extremely disappointing’

Defra Secretary of State, Thérèse Coffey, has said that the Government currently does not have any plans to introduce an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for textiles.

Therese Coffey EAC sessionAppearing before the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) on 8 February, Coffey said that she still needs to go on ‘a deep dive’ to understand the concerns around EPR but believes that Defra needs to make progress on the EPR of packaging materials before considering the inclusion of anything else. The EAC has been pushing for EPR for textiles since 2019.

She noted that Defra is funding the Textiles 2030 as part of its wider waste reduction programme, but could not promise any progress within 2023. She and Defra Director General David Hill commented that as packaging reforms and EPR account for ‘75 to 80 per cent’ of the waste sector’s shift towards net zero, this would be Defra’s priority at present.

Independent MP Claudia Webbe questioned the Environment Minister over a letter MPs sent to Defra in November 2022 which raised concern over a series of consultation and policy announcement delays. Coffey had responded at the time that she needed to take ‘a series of deep dives into priority issues’. Webbe questioned whether she could now define her top three priorities.

Coffey said that in the time frame since the letter had been sent, Defra has responded on deposit return schemes (DRS), is now ‘close to resolving consistent recycling’ and that ‘we do want to make progress with EPR’ but is being held back by industry concerns.

The Minister said there are also questions around sequencing for additional EPR schemes and what the cumulative load for business and industry could be.

Coffey added that Defra is ‘really keen to get the whole circular economy thing going again’, but said that further work needs to be done on what will be prioritised from the 2018 Resources and Waste strategy over the next 18 months.

Webbe pointed to the recently released Environment Improvement Plan and asked when the maximising resources and minimising waste program, which is referred to in the Plan, will be released. Defra Director General David Hill said it was expected ‘very soon’.

In terms of DRS, the EAC clarified that no scheme will include cartons, but the Welsh and Scottish schemes will include glass. In response, Coffey reflected on the progress that has been made with recovery of beverage cartons, stating her wish to see more councils include it in their kerbside recycling schemes.

Coffey said she was confident that having a ‘plastic and cans approach’ is the best way to get the DRS scheme underway in England and Northern Ireland, reiterating that the original target was ‘on-the-go’ packaging and that the details of each DRS are decided at a devolved level. She added: “I felt we'd lost the way of what DRS was really about. It's about consumption.”