DEFRA urged to simplify ‘overly-complex’ producer responsibility proposals

DEFRA’s proposals on extended producer responsibility (EPR) are overly complex and may drive undue costs or other undesirable outcomes, according to representatives from the waste, retail and manufacturing sectors.

First proposed as part of the waste and resources strategy in 2018, EPR will force producers to pay the full costs of disposal for the packaging they place on the market. 

DEFRA is currently seeking views on its proposals for the scheme, with a consultation closing tomorrow.

In the consultation document, DEFRA estimated that producers will be required to pay packaging waste management costs in the region of £2.7bn in the first full year of implementation. After this it is expected to cost producers £1.5bn annually.

This is a huge increase on the £1bn estimated by the government when it first proposed an EPR in its 2018 waste and resources strategy. 

Now, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) is estimating that producers will pass on at least some of the cost to consumers – “perhaps adding £100 to their annual shopping bills”.

In a letter sent this week to waste minister Rebecca Pow, ESA’s executive director, Jacob Hayler, said it was therefore important that “any additional cost directly drives recycling performance outcomes and not administration”.  

READ MORE: The lowdown on the extended producer responsibility scheme

DEFRA has set out three payment mechanisms for the system: ‘a scheme administrator system’, a ‘compliance scheme led payment mechanism’, and a ‘compliance scheme-led free bin approach’.

Under the first option, ‘a scheme administrator led’ mechanism, businesses disposing of packaging waste would receive a rebate from producers for recycling.

“This would result in a heavily discounted/free packaging waste collection service...This approach would operate within the existing collection framework, with waste management companies competing for customers,” the consultation says.

Under the ‘compliance scheme led payment mechanism’, the per tonne rate set by the scheme administrator would reflect collection costs only, net of material value, with sorting costs subject to agreement between the compliance scheme and the first receiver.

Under the ‘compliance scheme-led free bin approach’, all businesses would be entitled to free collection of packaging waste.

Hayler said: “To simplify things and drive performance, not paperwork, we recommend extending local authority waste services to micro-businesses that create household-like waste in the short term, and to establish a specific work-stream to investigate and design more simple reforms that extend to business waste producers more widely.”

In response, a DEFRA spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to delivering our reforms as quickly and effectively as possible, and we will consider consultation responses carefully to help us make our final decisions on policies we implement.”

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