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Report considers options for packaging recycling

Valpak has published a report setting out possible changes to the UK’s existing packaging recycling and producer responsibility regime in order to meet likely future targets.

PackFlow 2025 was formally launched at the CIWM’s ‘Resourcing the Future’ annual conference, following 12 months of research.

Steve Gough, Valpak chief executive, said: “We have used our 20 years of direct experience in extended producer responsibility (EPR) markets and systems, as well as our contacts and knowledge from across Europe, to produce what we think is a helpful and fact-based report.

”We believe that, although there is clearly a lot of uncertainty going forward, this reports goes towards providing some clarity and thoughts around what could be achieved and how it could operate in a very practical approach. It could help to deliver future challenges in a cost effective and fair way for all.”

The aim of the report was to review systems and performance across Europe, consider whether future packaging targets are achievable and what learning can be taken from other schemes. It considers whether the existing UK system could deliver both the interim and long-term targets being proposed by the European Commission’s circular economy (CE) package, and the strengths and weaknesses of the current UK system.

According to the report, plastics is unlikely to reach its 2025 target without intervention in the current system, while paper and cardboard, metals and glass are all expected to achieve theirs. For plastics, it cites the currently untapped plastic pots, tubs, trays and film in household collections as an area that requires additional investment to grow recycling rates.

Considering the 2030 CE targets, the report states that aluminium, steel and glass packaging are all likely to require intervention.

It researched the producer responsibility schemes of six European countries – Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Italy – and compared them to the UK.

This identified six key themes that incorporate the most significant differences between the schemes:

  • Compliance costs
  • Control and strategic development
  • Communication funds
  • Changing behaviour
  • Calculation of recycling rates
  • Complementary measures

Based on the research, three models, including cost considerations, were developed and put forward alongside the existing system for further debate by the industry:

  • Model 1: the existing system, with no changes at all, except for increasing targets.
  • Model 2: incorporates all the elements of the existing system, but is enhanced by minimal changes designed to encourage better use of our existing infrastructure.
  • Model 3: incorporating all the elements of the first two models, but has more significant enhancements based on driving infrastructure growth.
  • Model 4: moves away from the existing UK system and replaces it with two proposed versions of a ‘European-style’ model (one with compliance fee and one without). This entails a completely redesigned regulatory environment, maximum change for all stakeholders in the packaging supply chain and maximum cost for producers.

Valpak makes no recommendations as to the most suitable model for the UK, and states that it has put forward the four models as a starting point for wider industry stakeholders to discuss and for Government to consult on.

The report was wholly funded by Valpak and delivered by Valpak Consulting in conjunction with Verde Consulting, a Belgium-based consultancy. Its work has been supported and advised by input from a PackFlow 2025 Steering Group made up of key producers and retailers, trade associations, material organisations, regulators, and Government.

Read the report and see full details of the models proposed at: www.valpak.co.uk/PF2025

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