Last month DEFRA launched a consultation on how a scheme encouraging the use of sustainable packaging by ensuring producers pay the net cost of managing material once it became waste would work.
The consultation swiftly followed up an earlier consultation on whether or not to introduce EPR and assumes such an approach will go ahead.
The consultation runs until 4 June 2021 and Searle, speaking at the annual conference of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), warned time was running out for producers to fight the proposals.
“I think it's essential that producers respond to the consultation, because they are going to be in the firing line in terms of costs,” Searle said.
“And it's very important, I believe, that the supply chain unites to challenge those parts which we believe are not appropriate or fair.”
£3bn in added costs
Searle told the BFFF conference that the current estimate of costs for extended producer responsibility is in the region of £3bn a year. This, he said, would represent a tenfold to twentyfold increase in compliance costs from current levels, depending on materials used.
“The Government has said that EPR is simply a transfer of costs,” Searle said. “But it most certainly is not, because what it's doing is transferring costs from local authorities on to business and that has consequences.”
“For the Government to say that there is no economic impact from this is, of course, utterly laughable. And implementations are set to start towards the end of 2023 with an initial payment to local authorities to get them started, with full payments starting in 2024.”
Searle also spoke out against the ‘highly controversial’ measures against littering in the DEFRA proposals that will see responsibility shifted to producers.
“There is a proposal that for commonly littered items, which will include foodservice items, producers will be responsible for all litter costs for packaging.”
“That includes provision of bins, emptying of bins, dealing with the contents of bins and litter clean-up costs. The conservative estimate of the cost of that is around £200m a year but our view is that it will be substantially greater than that.”
‘Act of hypocrisy’
Searle highlighted a recent parliamentary question asking how much DEFRA had spent in the past five years on litter campaigns and announcements.
“The answer was £342,000, but they want us to spend £200m-plus a year, so if that isn’t the act of the greatest hypocrisy I have ever seen, I’m not sure what is,” he said.
“These proposals are completely dodging the issue that litter is a is a human behaviour, but politicians don't want to upset voters, so we've got an interesting challenge there.”