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Regulatory EPR needed, says ESA

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has challenged Defra’s desire for extended producer responsibility (EPR) to be implemented through guidance rather than a regulatory approach.

The trade body’s response follows comments from resources minister Therese Coffey during an EU Council of Ministers discussion on the European Commission’s circular economy (CE) package on 19 December.

Coffey told the meeting: “We believe the directorate should recognise that there are multiple valid approaches to achieving EPR. Market-based schemes like the ones in the UK should be allowed to continue – and with a real emphasis on outcomes. The provisions, we believe, should be for guidance only.”

The ESA and others in the industry have singled out EPR, whereby producers of waste take more ownership and control of reprocessing, as the key change needed to boost the UK’s falling recycling rate.

In response to Coffey’s comments, the ESA said: “The introduction of genuine EPR is one of the key elements that can drive improvements in UK and EU resource management. Achieving this step change is likely to require regulatory change rather than guidance alone.”

MRW understands that Coffey’s comments surprised some in the industry, who thought she was willing to embrace some regulatory aspects.

Coffey reiterated the UK’s “over-arching concerns” about targets in the CE package, which include 65% for the recycling of municipal waste and 75% for packaging waste by 2030.

The ESA has also said that statutory recycling targets and ring-fenced funding for local authorities, as have been introduced in high-recycling Wales, were unlikely to be introduced in England.

The National Resouce Consortium (NRC), a newly formed group of independent waste firms in the UK, has responded to this on social media: ”When an opportunity to improve presents itself, England thinks it knows best. At NRC we know the value of shared best practice.”

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