Industry body the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (Incpen) said Defra’s consultations on the resources and waste strategy offer the chance to “turbo-boost the nation’s recycling performance”.
The consultations cover both extended producer responsibility and the tax on virgin plastic proposed in last year’s Budget.
Paul Vanston, chief executive of Incpen, said: “These consultations on extensive packaging reforms, improving home recycling collections and implementing a well-designed deposit return scheme (DRS) mark a brilliant opportunity to turbo-boost the nation’s recycling performance.
“The whole value chain needs to work together to make recycling easier for citizens at home and when on-the-go. We also need to make sure big increases in funding from producers go to the parts of the recycling system where those funds can add the most value. Substantially increasing the quantity and quality of recyclates is imperative.”
Vanston called for the three devolved administrations to work with Westminster so that UK-wide schemes could be implemented in a harmonised way.
Welsh deputy minister for housing and local government Hannah Blythyn said: “While the consultations are being launched jointly across the whole of the UK, our position as a world leader in recycling means our circumstances are different from the rest of the UK.
“I am particularly keen to explore whether a DRS for drinks containers would work for Wales given our already high recycling rate.”
Pat Jennings, head of policy and communications at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said the consultations ”open up the opportunity to fundamentally change our approach to packaging recycling”.
She said the proposals would ensure the whole supply chain’s engagement, with producers required to fund the recovery and recycling of their packaging adequately, and local authorities tasked with ensuring that collection services are consistent and achieve the quality needed to put valuable materials back into the market.
Jeff Rhodes, head of environment and external affairs at Biffa, warned that innovation and the Government’s strategy could pull in opposite directions: ”Currently, we are seeing more public confusion and materials complications creeping in through new or alternative materials being introduced by producers and retailers, without giving full consideration to unintended negative consequences. This is the complete opposite of what a co-ordinated strategy is trying to achieve.”
Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth’s plastic campaigner, said: “A plastic tax should give firms a real incentive to use more recycled plastic in their products, leading to less waste and less pollution. But to be truly effective, the tax must be regularly revised to increase periodically the proportion of recycled material that manufacturers use.”