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Controversial packaging targets backed by ESA and London Councils

Local authorities in London have backed the government’s preferred targets for packaging waste, which received heavy criticism from plastics firms and consultants last week.

The London boroughs, the City of London, and fire and police authorities  – all represented by umbrella group London Councils – backed Defra’s preference for option 3A (see table) in the consultation document, noting: “The targets should be as high as possible, provided that there are no increased costs for local authorities”.

In a separate response to Defra’s consultation on packaging waste, which closed on 10 February, the Environmental Services Association also backed the proposals as “ambitious but achievable”.

However, the ESA strongly challenged a suggestion that composite material be removed from the waste calculations.

These largely positive responses are in marked contrast to those of the British Plastics Federation, which said the targets were “unachievable and politically concerning” (MRW 10 February).

London Councils said higher targets for businesses should encourage them to work more with authorities and prompt a growth in packaging recovery notes (PRNs)and export notes (PERNs).

Its submission noted: “So long as local authorities have no obligation to meet the increased packaging recycling and recovery targets, and it is made clear that it is the producers’ responsibility to fund the increased costs incurred by waste authorities in collecting and recycling higher amounts of packaging waste, London Councils will be supportive of higher targets.”

The group said higher targets would impact on the existing infrastructure and warned: “If a joined-up approach is not taken, there is a potential for producers to install competing collection infrastructure, which could affect income streams and waste management costs for waste authorities.”

London Councils also called on Defra to look further at a deposit return scheme (DRS) for beverage containers.

The ESA response document said: “Raising targets delivers support for collection and infrastructure to promote recycling of packaging waste - the targets are ambitious but achievable.

“Our members prefer … statutory targets or similar, rather than sector specific voluntary arrangements, which are proposed as the alternative means of achieving higher recovery rates in the consultation document”.

ESA policy director Matthew Farrow said packaging had been a big part of successful recycling over the past 10 years but more could be done.

“Ambitious but achievable targets set out for a full five-year period will support investment in the infrastructure needed to make this happen.”

But he criticised the intention to remove composite packaging products from waste calculations:

“We are against taking out composite products from the scheme. These products, made from a number of different materials, are more difficult to recycle but we shouldn’t be removing the incentives to do so.”

The ESA also supported the principle of a separate target for glass re-melt with some reservations about the practicality, particularly if it involved the PRN system.

Defra targets under Option 3A for 2012 and 2017

%2012
business targets
2012
to achieve
2017
business targets
2017
to achieve
Paper69.565.769.565.7
Glass81.061.781.061.7
Aluminium40.041.055.056.3
Steel71.053.276.056.9
Plastic32.223.757.042.1
Wood22.021.522.021.5
Recovery74.062.479.066.4
of which Recycling68.157.572.761.1

NB: ‘Business targets’ apply to obligated businesses only (which exclude businesses producing volumes of packaging less than a given threshold); ‘to achieve’ applies to the total amount of packaging put on the market irrespective of the business that places it there

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