Producers and recyclers are at odds over how Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) could work if it were implemented in the UK.
Both groups supported the scheme’s introduction, albeit recyclers more enthusiastically, at an RWM discussion. But there was some disagreement over which group should drive innovation in increasing recovery of products.
Environmental Services Association executive director Jacob Hayler said: “If you put the responsibility on producers, they will have the incentives to bring in new technologies that will help to reduce their own cost burdens.
“Producers are also best placed to weigh up the trade-offs between, for example, the performance of their products and their packaging, and what they want to put in in terms of recovery and end-of-life management. For optimal performance, I think they are best placed to have the responsibility.”
But electronics firm Sony’s director of environment and technical compliance Keiren Mayers challenged Hayler’s comments.
“We are not waste companies. We do not have the expertise,” he said. ”All over Europe, there are low environmental standards so there is no reference by which we improve technology or try to improve the results.
“That’s not to say the system cannot be made to work, but the presumption that it is all going to magically work itself out is time and time again proven not to happen.”
Councils also backed the introduction of an EPR scheme, seeing their role as partners with producers to ensure collection of materials.
Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee chief executive Lee Marshall said: “We understand that, if you are going to put money in, you should have more say over what goes on.
“We believe local authorities should stay as the commissioners of the service because we believe we do do stuff efficiently, in partnership with the private sector as well.”
He said their ’duty to collect’ could be switched to a ’duty to co-operate’.
Chair Steve Lee, outgoing CIWM chief executive, asked the audience for their views on EPR through a series of questions.
The only question not widely agreed to was whether any current producer responsibility schemes, such as Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs), should be scrapped first to make way.
Only a handful in the packed Circular Economy Theatre raised their hands, including Chase Plastics managing director Jessica Baker.
Speaking to MRW afterwards, Baker said that plastics PRNs had driven exports rather than domestic processing. She supported a British Plastics Federation version of EPR, whereby producers are allowed to offset their obligation provided they use a certain percentage of recycled material.
Lee urged the sectors to resolve their discussions before lobbying the Government.
He said: “The Government is giving us very clear messages. They are expecting this conversation to have been done and packaged ready for them.
“They want to know that our proposals have got people who recognise they are going to have to pay a tariff, people who are going to have to change the way they perform and that responsibilities for materials through the value chain will be different in the future.
“There is no point in approaching them piecemeal. So there is an awful lot more talking to be done.”