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Sustainable Packaging 2021

Effective EPR System removes the need for DRS

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Martin Kersh

Executive Director, Foodservice Packaging Association

The current policy climate offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to supercharge packaging recycling.

The next few years are a once in a lifetime opportunity to supercharge packaging recycling, though at a huge cost to business. Legislation seeking to increase recycling and the recycled content of packaging will, estimates reveal, cost businesses more than five billion pounds. Every penny raised must be deployed to build the recycling infrastructure the country needs.

Encouraging better waste management structure

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) with businesses paying the net cost of waste management, coupled with mandating local authorities to collect named materials, must provide the supercharging fuel. Local authorities will welcome the funding but EPR success may rest on the formula to allocate EPR fees.

Should local authorities that perform better on recycling receive more as reward for the success of their waste management? Or should funds be weighted to improve the performance of the poorer performing ones? Get this wrong and we run the risk of remaining where we are now with no improvement. 

A modulated fee structure sees harder to recycle items paying more than the easier to recycles ones. If done well, government will have the ‘world beating’ waste management structure it seeks with recyclers and reprocessors having the confidence needed to make the level of investment needed. The fourth pillar of the government’s programme – the Deposit Return System (DRS) – is expensive, time consuming and complex to set up. Effective, modulated EPR removes the need for DRS.

Business voluntary schemes need recognition

Business voluntary schemes, such as that now in place for paper coffee cups which are returned by consumers to the coffee shop, can be more effective than local authority systems. The FPA urges the UK Governments to ensure these schemes continue, with those paying into them offsetting their participation costs against EPR bills. 

EPR must fund compostable collection infrastructure

EPR must also ensure funds generated by compostable suppliers are used to create a nationwide compostable packaging collection infrastructure. Producers of compostables equally pay for producer responsibility and must expect something back. 

Business must receive value for money for its EPR fees and EPR must not be viewed as just a tax, but as the vehicle to deliver a circular economy. If legislation only rearranges the financial deckchairs, then it must be considered failure. We’ve come a long way but there is still a very long way to go. Let’s give it our best shot.

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