Environmental think-tank the Green Alliance has added its voice to calls for the introduction of extended producer responsibility (EPR) to boost England’s recycling.
In a report, Recycling reset: how England can stop subsidising waste, the organisation says local authorities unfairly bear the brunt of much criticism of the country’s recycling failures.
Producers should take responsibility for most of the cost of collections, according to the report, because they have the greatest ability to influence product design.
The report mentions Defra’s latest household waste recycling figures, published in December, which showed an unprecedented decline in England and the UK overall in 2015. It estimates that dealing with waste packaging and food leftovers at Christmas will have cost councils £72m.
To boost the country’s recycling post-Brexit, the Green Alliance sets out how an EPR system could be implemented.
It suggests rewarding producers that design less wasteful packaging, use recycled materials and encourage customers to recycle. Companies failing to do this would pay more.
Councils should standardise recycling collections, it says, to improve the quality of the material collected and to ease confusion over what can and cannot be recycled.
It also proposes that councils should be able to charge households that do not recycle everything they can.
Report author Jonny Hazell said: “Recycling in England has become dysfunctional. Businesses blame local authorities, local authorities blame businesses, and householders blame both.
“The only certain thing is that hard-pressed councils are having to pick up an unfair share of the bill, despite their obvious financial constraints. But they have no power to bring down the costs. Falling recycling rates show that a new approach is needed.
“A more consistent system would cost less and be fairer for all. It would also guarantee that British manufacturers get more of the high-quality recycled materials they need and reduce their dependence on imports.”
The report also criticises Whitehall’s approach to recycling in contrast to the more ambitious approaches of the devolved Welsh and Scottish administrations.
It says: “The way the Westminster Government has chosen to implement many EU waste rules has left a patchwork of laws, leading to inefficient waste and recycling collection and processing systems, and product designs that do not help.
“This has been due to a mentality which has sought to comply with the letter, rather than the spirit, of EU directives.”