Lords call for individual producer responsibility on waste

The government should introduce individual producer responsibility for certain electronic goods, according to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee

The Committee launched an inquiry into waste reduction last October, focusing on whether products can be designed to produce less waste.

Existing producer responsibility legislation – such as that to manage packaging waste, and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) – has increased recycling but led to few improvements in the actual design of products, the Committee’s report says. “The extent to which these regulations have really altered the mindset of businesses is dubious.”

Introducing individual producer responsibility could change this. IPR involves firms paying for the recycling and disposal of their own goods, rather than as part of an industry group. “Implementing IPR will be a long and complex process, but will be crucial in establishing the direct responsibility necessary to encourage manufacturers to reduce their waste,” the report says.

The Business Department (BERR) has previously said it is too complicated to implement.

Most of the report focuses on more general measures needed to improve the management of waste from businesses.

Local authority waste targets should be changed to encourage them to offer recycling services to businesses, the Committee says. At the moment, councils have targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste they send to landfill, which discourages them from offering collection services to firms.

The report does not suggest how these targets – a requirement under the EU landfill Directive – could be changed.

The Committee is “extremely disappointed” with this year’s funding cuts to business waste programmes such as Envirowise and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). “We are at a loss to understand the government’s reasoning [for the cuts],” it says. The government should return to ring-fencing a proportion of landfill tax receipts to spend on waste reduction initiatives, it adds.

One of the main ways waste from products could be reduced is if consumers are encouraged to retain goods for longer and repair them. The government should lower VAT for repairs to encourage such actions.

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