UK government sets out plans to overhaul waste system
Plans for a major overhaul of the country’s waste system have been set out in a suite of consultations launched today (Monday 18 February 2019) by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Building on commitments made in the Resources and Waste Strategy published in December 2018, the consultations provide detail on plans to make packaging producers pay the full cost of dealing with their waste and to introduce a consistent set of materials collected across England for recycling, and bringing in a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and bottles, subject to consultation. The changes will make up a key part of the government’s upcoming Environment Bill, to be introduced early in the second session of Parliament.
New requirements for consistent recycling
As well as making businesses and manufacturers pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste, the existing recycling system will be simplified. A consultation has launched today on a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses, and consistent labelling on the packaging so consumers know what they can recycle. Having comprehensive and frequent collections will ensure more reliable services while retaining local flexibility.
Central government is also seeking views on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for cans and bottles, subject to consultation, alongside setting out two potential models – ‘all-in’ or ‘on-the-go’. This could drive up the recycling of an estimated three billion plastic bottles which are currently incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute our streets, countryside and marine environment.
Tackling the issue of plastic waste
On the same day, the government has also launched its consultation on introducing a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content, subject to consultation, from April 2022. This will address the current issue of it often being cheaper to use new, non-recycled plastic material despite its greater environmental impact.
To help drive-up recycling levels, the government will introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials for collection in England, no matter which part of the country people live in. Costs of managing packaging waste will be funded by industry through a packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system. This will see industry pay higher fees if their packaging is harder to reuse or recycle and will encourage sustainable design, subject to the consultation launched today. EPR for packaging will raise between £800 million and £1 billion a year for recycling and disposal.
These new requirements will greatly change your business’ current approach to packaging and waste and as such we urge you to familiarise yourself with the proposals and give your feedback through the consultations. The government will seek views on its plans for 12 weeks up until 13 May 2019.
Building on existing work to decrease plastic pollution further:
The consultations build on existing government work to tackle unnecessary waste and plastic pollution, including a world-leading ban on microbeads in personal care products, a 5p plastic bag charge which has taken over 15 billion single-use plastic bags out of circulation and a consultation to extend it to all retailers, plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, a £15 million pilot scheme for reducing food waste, and up to £10 million to clear the worst abandoned waste sites that blight local communities.
How does the City Council handle the plastic waste that we collect?
As a public waste collector, Westminster City Council’s way of managing plastics is different; it is transparent and completely auditable from start to end. The plastics we collect as part of mixed recycling are segregated at a local facility in Southwark. The separated different plastics then go to dedicated plastic recyclers. Rigid plastics go to Veolia Rainham for further sorting into different plastic grades. The sorted milk bottles are then recycled at Veolia’s Dagenham facility where they are turned into pellets for new packaging and the plastic film based plastics are recycled in mainland Europe, for example at CEDO in The Netherlands into bin liners.
What can you do to help reduce plastic waste?
The best possible solution is to generate less plastic waste in the first place. Think about the products that you’re currently using every day and if you can substitute any of these for a non-plastic alternative.
Our guide covering ‘8 quick tips to reducing waste’ may give you some ideas.
If you want to dig deep into your waste management practices and improve upon them, we would recommend booking a waste audit with us. One of our local waste and recycling experts will come to your property at a date and time which suits you and can provide you with some expert advice on how you can improve your waste management.