Environmental compliance data specialist Ecoveritas and the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) are urging the Government to stay the course following rumours that a further delay to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is on the cards.
With unanswered questions around the consistency of collections, EPR fees and timescales, as well as the absence of a scheme administrator, Ecoveritas says there is a "distinct lack of confidence" that the plan can move out of the current stall it appears to be in. However, it adds that regardless of its popularity - or rather unpopularity - if the policy will invite positive environmental change, “we need the willpower to implement it”.
"EPR should be a shining beacon," said Ecoveritas' CEO Andrew McCaffery. "Instead, we seem to be caught in a downward spiral of negativity, and you get that sense of déjà vu regarding proposed positive recycling and waste policy changes stalling.
“We must move away from the status quo and this inherent predisposition towards pessimism. We're completely misjudging the power of the consumer in all of this. When you contrast the industry's position with the urgency of the climate crisis, these are damaging actions.”
The CIWM holds similar views and while acknowledging the pressures facing the UK economy and concerns around these reforms, it also believes its enforcement will create new jobs, encourage economic growth and help the UK hit its Net Zero targets.
It adds that failure to implement EPR will result in the public continuing to bear the cost of commercial recycling, reduced investment in recycling infrastructure due to a loss of confidence in the legislative framework and a significant slowing of the UK’s green economy.
EPR is due to be rolled out in 2024 and according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) will cost manufactures almost £2bn a year. With data reporting legislation already in force, producers have been gathering data on packaging since January this year ready for payments in 2024.
"If EPR is to be delayed, let's be honest and transparent about it with businesses who have put time, energy and resources into initiatives, all of which has a cost,” added McCaffrey. “Right now, we need something we have sorely missed from the very start: certainty and stability."
The FDF, which previously called for delays to the scheme, has said the current proposals will not work because they “lack ambition”, but are in favour of industry taking on the responsibility for the collection and recycling of packaging materials.
Its chief executive Karen Betts told The Times that if the PM and Chancellor “really want to get serious” about tackling food inflation, “they need to go back to the drawing board on ERP”.
“The Government must improve these regulations, and then get out of the way,” she added, referencing the downfall of the Scottish deposit return scheme and lessons to be learnt there.
"The good news is that the data reporting legislation has become law,” commented McCaffery, “so at least the governments can begin to more accurately assess the amount of packaging placed onto the market in 2023 before introducing new fees.”