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ESA urges levy on fast food packaging manufacturers

Litter problem in London

The Government’s forthcoming litter strategy for England should include extended producer responsibility (EPR) measures on manufacturers to pay for street cleaning, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has said.

A policy paper from the ESA proposes the introduction of a levy on manufacturers of fast food, drinks and confectionery packaging to cover clear-up costs.

It estimates that councils in the UK spend £100m a year clearing these items from the streets, although the ESA admits there is very little data available on costs attributed to fast food.

Overall, local authorities spend around £800m a year on street cleansing, with the removal of chewing gum and cigarette butts making up a large part of this. Clean-up costs associated with cigarette butts alone costs around £140m a year and chewing gum around £60m.

The ESA suggests a ‘placed on the market’ fee for cigarettes and chewing gum that could be allocated to councils on an equitable basis.

It says that because cigarettes are already heavily taxed, this would not have a dissuasive effect, but a ring-fenced EPR levy could raise funds to help fund litter clean-up or large-scale campaigns to change behaviour.

Executive director Jacob Hayler said: “Whether the UK ends up in or out of the single market, we believe that EPR has the potential to help address this pervasive problem which costs local authorities huge amounts each year.

“The ESA believes that applying EPR to the biggest and most intractable litter sources – cigarette butts, chewing gum and food and drink packaging in particular – could save councils around £300m a year, a big help during difficult economic times for councils.

“We are also calling on the Government to consider the role that EPR could play in its forthcoming litter strategy,” he added.

The development of England’s first ever litter strategy was announced in December 2015 by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Defra.

The DCLG told MRW there was no set date for the strategy’s release, but said it would be published “in due course”.

Scotland’s litter strategy was published in 2014.

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