The Environment Agency needs to place more responsibility on product manufacturers to reduce waste at source, claims a Dickinson Dees LLP lawyer.
Speaking to MRW Dickinson Dees LLP partner Stuart Wardlaw said that, although the EA continues to pursue companies who fail to comply with packaging waste regulations, less is being done to reduce packaging waste at source.
The packaging regulations put obligations on businesses to increase recycling and minimise packaging waste. Wardlaw has represented clients in a broad range of sectors with a particular focus on waste management.
Wardlaw said: Significant strides have been made so far with the packaging regulations to reduce waste but we still have a long way to go. It is unfair to concentrate just on supermarkets when manufacturers package the products at source. People get micro focused on household recycling initiatives and what councils are doing. But the holy grail is reducing packaging at the manufacturing stage and minimise the waste we get in the first place.
Regulations require that packaging should be kept to a minimum, yet legislative loopholes and the low maximum fine of £5,000 mean the legislation is not having any real effect on reducing packaging waste.
The EA must shift the onus onto manufacturers, requiring the packaging of products with recyclable material, as well as increasing penalties of breaching legislation.
Wardlaws comments follow on from the Local Government Association report on supermarket packaging which found that retailers were still failing to offer enough recyclable packaging (see MRW story).
But he added that it is the most difficult part of the supply chain to look at because manufacturers may find it difficult to measure permissible waste levels. He said: Do they look at tonnes of product packaging or percentages? Wardlaw explained that in Korea, excess packaging is restricted to no more than 15 per cent of the total product weight and such a system could work in the UK.
The Environment Agency spokeswoman said: About 60% of packaging waste in the UK is now recovered which is about double the proportion that was recovered a decade ago. There are also many examples of packaging that has been made lighter, more recyclable or eliminated altogether so there is progress. However, there are still examples of over packaging where the extra packaging isnt there to protect the product and the Waste & Resources Action Programme has been working with many retailers and brand owners to reduce the amount of packaging used.
Wardlaw added that by cutting out waste from source manufacturers could save on waste disposal cost and cut carbon emissions.