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Defra rejects intervention on recycled content

Resource minister Rory Stewart said Defra will not introduce measures to incentivise companies to use recyclable materials in their packaging, saying it is “ultimately the decision of business”.

Labour MP Ruth Cadbury used a written question to ask if Defra would consider fines for businesses that “choose to use non-recyclable materials when a recyclable alternative is viable”.

Stewart responded by outlining his department’s work with WRAP to support the use of recycled materials in new products and to stimulate demand.

He mentioned the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan, which sought to develop sustainable end markets, and the Courtauld Commitment, which looked to maximise recycled content “as appropriate” in packaging design through the supply chain.

“However, while we can encourage design for recyclability, it is ultimately the decision of the business that make the product to decide what packaging materials they use, based on a number of functionality requirements,” said Stewart.

“We are making it easier for businesses to adopt eco-design principles by ensuring access to a range of free advice and guidance on packaging design and issues which should be considered when designing packaging.”

Recycled content requirements have received longstanding backing from associations such as FEAD, the European body for waste businesses. A broader need for more measures to stimulate secondary material markets at a domestic and European level has been called for by many industry figures.

The Scottish Environmental Services Association (Sesa) recently urged compulsory recycled content levels in public procurement contracts from the next Scottish Parliament.

Sesa’s manifesto, released ahead of Parliamentary elections on 5 May, said boosting demand for reused or recycled material was essential for Scotland to meet its 70% recycling target by 2025.

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