Environment Bill: Producers to be made responsible for 100% of packaging waste

Enabling powers to deliver a deposit return scheme and make producers responsible for 100% of the packaging waste they create as well as new tools to tackle waste crime are included in the government's flagship Environment Bill, published yesterday.

Among the bill's wide-ranging measures are regulations intended to drive a shift in the market towards products that can be more easily recycled, re-used and repaired. 

Speaking yesterday, environment secretary Theresa Villiers said that the bill will build on the government's 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, "to help people recycle more and take us further and faster to a genuinely circular economy".

Among the waste-related measures contained in the bill are regulations that would create new powers to make producers responsible for 100% of the cost of dealing with the packaging waste they create.

READ MORE: The Environment Bill

READ MORE: 38 things you need to know about the Environment Bill

These powers would allow the relevant national authority to make regulations that require those involved in manufacturing, processing, distributing or supplying products or materials to meet, or contribute to, the disposal costs of those products. The bill also includes measures that would allow the government to introduce producer responsibility obligations on waste prevention and redistribution.

Powers to introduce a deposit return scheme and to allow for the making of regulations about charges for single-use plastic items are also included. An updated policy statement said that new charges,  similar to the carrier bag charge, “will incentivise a shift towards the use of more reusable items”

The legislation would also give the government power to set requirements for manufacturers and producers to provide information about the resource efficiency of their products. To support the public’s efforts to recycle more, the Environment Bill also stipulates a consistent set of materials that must be collected from all households and businesses, including food waste. 

Elsewhere, powers contained in the bill to introduce a new system of electronic waste tracking are intended to make it easier to tackle waste crime.

Examples of the information that the regulations could require people to enter onto the electronic system include how waste is processed or treated, where waste has moved to and to whom waste has transferred, according to an explanatory note published alongside the bill. 

Criminal offences would be created, punishable with a fine in order to enforce the regulations and any failures to comply with the regulations, the note says. “These measures will help level the playing field by ensuring all businesses are adopting legitimate waste management practices,” the policy statement adds.

“The bill contains the enabling powers needed to deliver the ambitious policy measures set out in the government’s resources and waste strategy – from deposit return scheme proposals and extended producer responsibility for packaging and other waste streams through to future resource efficiency standards for products and clearer labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle. 

"It also includes powers to deliver a step change in the provision of waste data and strengthen the regulatory regime to crack down on waste crime,” says Pat Jennings, CIWM’s head of policy, knowledge & external affairs. 

Follow-up: The Environment Bill is available here. The explanatory notes are available here. The policy statement is available here.