Industry responds to Defra consultations on EPR and DRS

Following the launch of the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), industry has expressed cause for concern.

Defra announced yesterday (24 March) that consultations gathering views on an EPR scheme and DRS were moving to the next round, with Environment Ministers from all devolved nations expressing support for the ‘landmark reforms’.

The DRS would see consumers incentivised to take empty drinks containers to return points hosted by retailers – though decisions about the final design of the scheme, including the type of waste and materials to be collected, are still underway

The EPR would see the Government enforcing rules that mean manufacturers bear the full costs of managing and recycling packaging waste, with higher fees for hard-to-recycle packaging. UK governments have been working with industry to enhance parts of the current system.

The third of the reforms, which Defra stated it will be seeking consultation on ‘shortly’, would see the introduction of consistent recycling collections for all households and businesses.

Among those who have expressed both support for and concern about these reforms is the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), which has raised issue with the delay in the release of the consultation on consistent collections, due to the fact that no date has been given.

Though LARAC has welcomed the fact that DRS consultation is seeking further views on the ‘on the go’ options and the emerging work on digital DRS, it has stated that a DRS that ‘utilises and builds on the widespread and well used household kerbside collection infrastructure is likely to be the best solution for a UK DRS’.

In terms of the EPR governance models, LARAC has continued to endorse the single body approach from the first round of consultations and is ‘pleased’ to see this option is in the second consultation.

LARAC has early concerns about the timings of DRS and EPR implementation and how these then relate to payments to local authorities.

Carole Taylor, Chair of LARAC, said: “I would urge all local authorities to take the time to properly consider these hugely important consultations and respond meaningfully to them.

“The outputs from these consultations will shape local authority waste services for the next twenty years so we need to get them right and working for local residents.

“There is understandable frustration in the delay in releasing the consistency consultation, with further implications for councils.

“There is also concern about the shortened consultation period at a time when local authorities and business are stretched with their ongoing efforts in the face of Covid 19.
“We would ask the governments to seriously consider reinstating the consultation period to the full 12 weeks.” 

Other industry experts also welcomed the launch of these consultations, but again expressed concern around the delay in consultation on consistent collections.

Ecosurety's Head of Innovation and Policy Robbie Staniforth commented: "Ecosurety welcomes the launch of these vital consultations, yet feels it is unfortunate that the Consistent Collection consultation which is intrinsic to the overall functioning of the packaging waste system has not been launched alongside EPR and DRS.

"Given the shortened consultation period, we hope there is significant overlap of the consultations and that the Government’s views on consistent collections in England are made apparent soon.

Regarding the DRS and EPR consultations, Staniforth added: “Thanks to Defra’s extensive engagement plan over the last 18 months, much of the content of these consultations is very familiar, with Ecosurety's input on certain aspects of the EPR system’s design clearly having been taken into consideration.

"We look forward to exchanging views with all stakeholders over the forthcoming weeks, with a view to ensuring the new system is workable from go-live. Bearing in mind the outcomes of the EPR consultation will define the packaging waste system in place for several decades, it is essential that all sectors are well represented and they reply to the consultation directly.”

Valpak's CEO Steve Gough said: “The policy that will result from this consultation represents the most significant change in the way we deal with waste packaging since the advent of the Packaging Waste Regulations in 1997. It will impact the entire supply chain, so we hope that all stakeholders will engage.

"We are pleased to see that government is consulting on both a single scheme and competitive approaches for both the household and household-like waste, and the business waste elements of the new regimes, giving all stakeholders a choice and opportunity to put forward their thoughts on these options.

“The options are very much in line with Valpak’s thinking from our experience of operating within the UK and from some examples we see in other territories, where we also help producers with their packaging compliance and registrations.

“The consultation will form the UK’s new policy on extended producer responsibility, which includes a commitment to the funding by producers of the full net cost of packaging recycling.”