UK government plans new recycling regime and plastic tax

The UK Government has published proposals for changes in waste management, including a plan to make businesses pay for the full cost of recycling or disposing of packaging waste, introduction of a consistent kerbside recycling scheme across England, a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles; and a tax on plastic packaging that contains less than 30 per cent of recyclable material content, to be introduced from 2022.

At present, packaging producers pay only about 10 per cent of the cost of dealing with packaging waste. Under the new proposals this would rise to 100 per cent. The government will also consider schemes that would extend producer responsibility for items that are more difficult or costly to recycle, including cars, electrical goods and batteries (extending existing schemes); textiles, fishing gear, furniture, carpets and some construction materials.

If a consistent kerbside collection regime were introduced this would include weekly food waste collections for every household in England and could also include free garden waste collections. The government is proposing the introduction of new rules designed to bring clarity and consistency to recycling instructions on packaging, so consumers will know which materials can or cannot be recycled.

Additional costs of managing waste from packaging would be funded by industry through an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, with businesses paying higher fees for use of packaging that was more difficult to reuse or recycle. The government estimates that such a scheme could raise between £800 million and £1 billion per year.

The proposed deposit return scheme would be introduced with the aim of recycling an estimated 3 billion plastic bottles that are currently either incinerated, sent to landfill or lost, resulting in increased plastic pollution. One of two models for the scheme would be used: either an ‘all-in’ version that would target most drinks containers, or an ‘on-the-go’ version that would only apply to drinks containers holding up to 750ml.

The proposed tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content was announced in the 2018 Budget. The other changes may be introduced, subject to consultation, in an Environment Bill due to be introduced to Parliament after Easter.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the UK Government was “committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste … to move away from being a ‘throw away’ society”.

“We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it,” he continued.

The consultation will last for 12 weeks.

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