LARAC ‘concerned’ over Defra EPR delay

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has expressed concern at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) delay of the phased introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

SupermarketEPR was originally expected to be introduced from 2023, but Defra yesterday took the decision to delay its implementation. The department stated that it had ‘considered the feedback they received to the consultation’, which reportedly showed concern over EPR’s original timeline.

Defra outlined stakeholder concerns over the proposals for Phase 1 of EPR, which ‘gave insufficient time for businesses to prepare for new data reporting requirements’ and ‘for the Scheme Administrator to mobilise.’ The latter, Defra said, would have ‘widespread implications’ for producers and local authorities.

The department added that a lack of or incorrect data underpinning the approach ‘could jeopardise the scheme’, stating that ‘it is essential that EPR is introduced in a way that is manageable for all those involved.’

LARAC stated that it is ‘now awaiting a new timeline to be published’, but, as of yet, Defra has not issued this information, stating that it is in the final approval stages.

In a statement, LARAC stated that it was ‘concerned’ to learn of the delay, as well as the ‘continued delay to the responses from government on the consistency and DRS consultations’.

The body went on to note that its members had delayed new procurements, implementing interim contracts and extensions to allow them to ‘go to the market with confidence and a strong offer’ once guidance on consistent collections, EPR and DRS had been fully clarified.

The Government’s delays, LARAC said, are leading to members’ options becoming ‘more unfeasible’, with updated service contracts for collections and processing being procured ‘within a vacuum of uncertainty’, raising costs for local taxpayers. This, LARAC warned, could see local authorities awarding contracts with no provision for EPR until the next contract cycle, which could be a minimum of seven years.

The ability for local authorities to implement the changes needed by EPR, the body asserts, could now be delayed until 2030 or later. The original target within the Resources and Waste Strategy of 75 per cent of packaging to be recycled by 2030 and a 65 per cent recycling rate for municipal solid waste by 2035, LARAC states, ‘puts local authorities under a huge amount of additional pressure.

Continuing, the body added that the impact assessment for consistent collections and EPR assumed a contract replacement cycle amongst local authorities that is, as of yesterday, ‘out of date’. This, LARAC stated, means that the underpinning basis for the changes is no longer correct, and should be reconsidered.

The body said that it would continue to engage with Defra on behalf of its members to ‘find compromises and solutions that will allow the earliest implementation of EPR’, by reviewing the procurement rules driving the problem.