The packaging industry has called for a “lean strategic not-for-profit body” to oversee the reformed extended producer responsibility (EPR) system.
In their response, 46 industry bodies said in a joint letter to environment secretary Michael Gove that such a body should operate across the UK and have a co-operative governance model drawn from the entire value chain.
It would have the objective of ensuring that full net cost recovery was achieved annually, and could also decide system costs relating to packaging design decisions and have the power to determine what is and is not recyclable.
The signatories said retaining competition in the EPR system “could deliver efficiency and innovation”.
There would have to be a ‘fair funding framework’ overseen by the EPR strategic body to ensure transparency over what packaging producers paid in and what local authorities received for handling materials.
“We wish citizens to be early winners from these system changes,” the letter said. It noted that nationally consistent standards would be needed to enable producers to remove the ‘check locally’ guidance from packaging labelling to “help citizens know precisely what can and cannot be recycled in the core recycling service (with minimum service standards) you rightly propose”.
It said all parts of the packaging value chain “recognise the need to work effectively together to harmonise activities based on shared drivers and outcomes”.
It added: “In respect to plastics, the activities and timescales of the UK Plastics Pact should dovetail with implementation of consistency measures.”
Turning to the proposed deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers, the letter said signatories supported a well-designed scheme, “complementary to councils’ kerbside schemes, and taking implementation forward in harmony with EPR and ‘consistency’ ”.
Following Scotland’s announcement of a DRS there, it said there would be merit in a “coherent and co-ordinated” scheme across the UK, but it thought that reforming EPR and consistency of collections would be more important.
The letter said: “The widely held view is that EPR and ‘consistency’ together provide a substantial basis on which to transform outcomes for the widest range of packaging types.
”If there are design or performance gaps relating to beverage packaging that can be properly addressed by a well-designed DRS across the nations (such as introduction of either an on-the-go or all-in system following your consultation), then this is the evidence-based approach we advocate.”
Joined-up implementation of EPR and consistency across the UK should be priorities, with a unified approach across the four UK nations on legislation, timescales and implementation.
On the plastics packaging tax proposals, the letter said the additional funds raised should be “automatically committed to system improvements including infrastructure and innovations”.
It suggested this tax system could be run by Defra rather than the Treasury to better ensure that money raised by the system stays within the system.