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Should packaging-waste producers have to recycle household refuse?

By Greg Pitcher

Support is growing for a law change to make packaging producers recycle a certain amount of material from household waste.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) this week became the latest organisation to back calls for municipal packaging-waste recovery targets.

The debate was started when a Forum for the Future report concluded earlier this month that weight-based council recycling targets were holding the UK back.

The sustainability charity said local authorities should be set ambitious material-specific targets to increase collections of lighter materials.

But the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) insisted packaging-waste producers should be set targets rather than councils.

Major compliance scheme Valpak immediately added its support to LARACs cause, saying such a law change would be to the benefit of UK recycling.

Now WRAP plastics sector manager Paul Davidson has agreed that making obligated companies fund domestic-waste recycling would be a positive move.

Davidson said: It would be an efficient way of increasing plastic recycling. It would channel the right amount of funding into domestic collections.

It is not for me to say whether the law should be changed but it is hard to see the reason why it is not.

The UK recycled 47% of its packaging in 2003, making it the third worse in the EU, ahead of Greece and Ireland. Germanys packaging recycling rate was around 76%, and Belgiums 71%.

Much of this has been blamed on targets that encourage councils to recycle heavier materials 65% of paper was recycled in 2003 but only 22% of plastic and 24% of aluminium.

Packaging producers have material-specific recovery targets every year from 2004 but much of the material needed to hit these is currently being collected from the commercial waste stream.

This is especially true of plastics, where targets have been kept low following investigations into fraudulent issuing of packaging recovery notes (PRNs).

At the moment, 97% of producers responsibilities are discharged on industrial and commercial waste, said Davidson. PRN funds are not being targeted towards domestic collections.

LARAC agreed that much of the material needed to comply with packaging regulations was coming from commercial and industrial waste streams.

A spokesman for the body representing council recycling staff added: This has, in part, contributed to the acknowledged low level of recovery of some packaging materials within local authorities.

It is the belief of LARAC that the material-specific targets that currently exist within the packaging regulations could be amended to require producers to recover a certain percentage of their obligation from the household waste stream.


Valpak chief executive Steve Gough backed that view. He said: Valpak agrees that a link between local authority and business recycling targets could lead to increased efficiency in UK recycling.

But he added: It should not be ignored that the PRN system has already contributed and will continue to contribute to domestic recycling.

Domestic glass collections have increased significantly, thanks to investment from the PRN system and other sources of funding.

And as business targets increase, there will be an increased drive to collect material from the domestic waste stream.

Davidson agreed with this and claimed there were signs that companies were looking to begin buying plastic PRNs from the domestic waste stream.

The PRN market will tighten up in the wake of the fraud investigation, he said. So as prices go up, domestic sources will become more attractive.

We are seeing the first inklings of compliance schemes getting involved with domestic waste.

As the targets increase, more new sources of plastic waste will be needed. There is a crossover point where the more expensive commercial and industrial waste costs more than the ch

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