A fee and rebate system should be imposed on manufacturers to encourage the use of recycled materials, together with a single producer responsibility organisation.
The proposals have come in a report from the Resource Association (RA) and environmental group World Wildlife Fund UK (WWF) as their preferred options for making it more attractive to use secondary rather than virgin materials.
The single producer responsibility organisation would be needed since the current system gave little incentive to improve the quality of materials, it said.
A fee and rebate system would work by imposing a levy on the use of designated materials with a full or partial refund depending on how much post-consumer recyclate (PCR) was included.
The levy rate could be based on the difference in the environmental costs of using primary materials and secondary ones, or the costs of primary production. A secondary material certificate would be used for verification.
The report, Demand Recycled: Policy Options for Increasing the Demand for Post-Consumer Recycled Materials, was written by consultancy Eunomia, which developed the policy options,
Eunomia chair Dominic Hogg said: “We believe that the introduction of [the fee and rebate] mechanism could significantly increase the use of recycled plastic, as well as creating jobs here at home, by ensuring materials collected in the UK for recycling are properly used as a resource.”
RA chief executive Ray Georgeson (pictured) said there had been a lot of talk but little action on boosting demand for recycled material, and the report “adds a real level of detail to this discussion with some much-needed fresh thinking”.
Other options proposed were a tax on materials levied at the point of manufacture and tradable credits for using PCR. The report did not reject either, but it found they would be less effective than the fee and rebate system.
It said a single producer responsibility organisation could exist alongside any of the three options, and should be created “to overcome some of the failures in co-ordinating linked markets in the current system for packaging and to encourage investment in quality systems for collection, sorting and reprocessing”.
Eunomia said: “The current producer responsibility system, in which compliance schemes compete for evidence of agreement with recycling targets, delivers far from optimal outcomes for the overall system.”
Multiple compliance schemes sought least cost compliance for customers, but the system “offers a weak basis for stable relationships between the multiple compliance schemes and the off-takers of material”, it found.