The Government has backed down over plans to exclude certain waste streams from producer responsibility schemes after strong opposition from some sections of the recycling industry.
The idea was put forward in a consultation carried out jointly by Defra and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as part of a drive to cut the costs and administrative burden on producers involved in packaging, WEEE and battery compliance schemes.
The Government has now said it has ‘no plans’ to pursue the idea after just 15% of respondents backed the idea and 47% said they were opposed.
But it added that some ‘very specific options’ put forward by respondents could be considered.
The Recycling Association supported the idea of certain exclusions, specifically offsetting plastic PRNs by using recycled polymers in their products. Novelis also sought an exception from the PRN system for aluminium, as the system is not an effective driver of aluminium recycling.
However, waste management company Viridor previously said it saw no “merit in removing waste streams from obligations under the regulations”. An industry insider was concerned that the exclusion of wastes could create loopholes, which could lead to the misrepresentation of materials by those wanting to cheat the system.
The consultation outlined 21 proposals and the Government has now responded to comments received from businesses, compliance schemes and local authorities.
Operational plans scrapped
A proposal to remove requirements for compliance schemes to submit operational plans was only supported by 28% of respondents and opposed by 24%.
There were fears that this could remove a source of information on which the market-based producer responsibility systems depended.
The Government said it ‘appreciated’ operational plans had “provided some degree of confidence that targets will be met”, but indicated it would press ahead nonetheless. The response said: “Our experience has been that the process for preparing, assessing and agreeing the plans is a time consuming process for all parties and inevitably the plans are out-of-date shortly after they are agreed.”
Government retreats over evidence notes
A proposal to allow exporters to issue ‘evidence notes’ on the quality of foreign reprocessors without referring to specific sites received ‘mixed responses’. Only 39% supported the proposal, and 17% were against. There was particular opposition from the plastics and WEEE sector, and some respondents were concerned the quality of reprocessors could not be guaranteed.
As a result the Government backed down and said there was a “need to improve confidence in the application of controls over exports”.
The Government also said it would ‘streamline’ the application process for approvals for reprocessors, treatment operators and exporters rather than scrap it altogether.
Proposals continue to be considered
BIS consulted separately on excluding smaller businesses from WEEE producer schemes and a response to this is to be ‘published shortly’.
DS Smith paper and cardboard recyclers has previously warned this move would remove half of current WEEE producers from compliance scheme registration and “would severely impact on the ability for a number of schemes to operate”.
A proposal to exclude smaller businesses from needing to register with a scheme was supported by 55% of respondents, while 17% disagreed. The Government said it will “work up a number of options” for packaging and battery schemes.
A further proposal was to move to a two-tier registration charge based on the size of the producer, possibly based on turnover and tonnage of material placed on the market. The charges would reflect work undertaken in compliance monitoring, advice and guidance.
Forty-one per cent of respondents supported the idea and 27% were against. The Government said it was “keen to look at this issue further”.