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ESA tells Tories to back plastic producer responsibility

Producers should pay the “true cost” of plastics recycling, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has told Conservative Party conference delegates.

Executive director Jacob Hayler (pictured) addressed a fringe meeting at the Birmingham conference organised by Bright Blue, which describes itself as a think tank for liberal conservatism.

Hayler said: “In many ways plastic is an innovative material that provides a cost-effective way to preserve shelf-life and prevent food waste.

“However, as [BBC programme] Blue Planet II so powerfully highlighted, it all too often ends up in the ocean, killing and maiming wildlife.

“At the same time, the UK is recycling only around 45% of plastic packaging. This is because by the time it gets to us, it’s often too late – the plastic has not been designed for recyclin, or has caused confusion for the consumer about which bin it should go in.”

Hayler said producers should be made to meet these costs through strengthened producer responsibility obligations, which would bring increased funding for domestic recycling infrastructure and incentivise producers to design their products for recyclability.

“This must be complemented by measures to require producers to use recycled content in their products, without which there is no point collecting materials for recycling in the first place,” Hayler said.

“The ESA looks forward to the publication of Defra’s resources and waste strategy which we believe will set out an ambitious vision for producer responsibility.”

Bright Blue organiser Ryan Shorthouse told MRW that his organisation supported taxation of single-use plastics to reduce their use: “The plastic bag charge has driven real behavioural change so there is evidence that these measures can work.”

In a joint statement after the meeting, Hayler and FCC Environment chief executive Paul Taylor said a broader discussion was needed on the UK reduces the amount of waste it produces.

“From simplifying how we collect our waste, to PRN reform, which will inject funding into recycling and incentivise producers to design their products better – these are things that we can be working on implementing from today,” they said.

“But, our efforts will be hampered unless we tackle two issues in particular: infrastructure and residual waste.”

They said the industry would be ready to invest in infrastructure to better tackle plastic recycling if the framework was there to deal with it.

Residual waste would “be headed straight to a crisis”, if policymakers continued to ignore it, they both warned.

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