Fears over financial burden of waste proposals

Government proposals that could see packaging producers pay the full cost of recycling will place a “considerable financial burden” on manufacturers, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has warned.

The proposals were part of the new Resources and Waste Strategy which was unveiled yesterday (18 December) by environment secretary Michael Gove.

It also includes Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which will see the industry pay higher fees if products are harder to reuse, repair or recycle. The EPR for packaging is expected to raise between £500m and £1bn a year.

In response, the FDF raised concerns about the cost associated with these initiatives.

“Many of the measures being suggested by Defra will place considerable financial burdens on food and drink manufacturers, and SMEs in particular. The timing of such an announcement also needs to be considered alongside the spectre of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario which still looms large over our industry,” an FDF spokesperson said.

“It is important that the government engages closely with the food and drink industry as it begins to consult on these measures, particularly given the work already being done across the supply chain to tackle such issues as food waste and packaging.”

Packaging manufacturer Macpac also raised concerns that the strategy places extra burden on plastic converters, but hopes the proposals will bring the UK up to speed with the rest of Europe.

“What is certain is that despite all the hard efforts of packaging manufacturers to develop recyclable and biodegradable materials… the waste management infrastructure in the UK lags behind the rest of Europe,” said Macpac sales manager Simon Firth.

“There are 388 councils in the UK and around 50 different collection systems, with little uniformity when it comes to waste collection. There is confusion amongst the public when it comes to kerbside collection. Where is the sense in a local authority taking all plastics while another cherry picks?”

The government is hoping to address this by simplifying household recycling collections through the introduction of a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses, as well as consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what can be recycled.

This plan was welcomed by director of the Federation of Bakers Gordon Polson as it “gives us the opportunity to encourage all local authorities to collect bread bags and recycle them”. Bread bags are recyclable but are collected alongside carrier bags at supermarkets rather than via a kerbside collection service.

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