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Time for a fresh look at packaging compliance penalties

The recent MRW report that producers have paid more than £300,000 to environmental charities this year to compensate for breaches of packaging regulations suggests they are getting no more than a slapped wrist.

Those who have flouted their legal obligations under the producer responsibility system can pay their penalty to a charity of their choice and then register with a compliance scheme without any further questions asked.

More could, and should, be done to ensure packaging producers comply with their packaging recycling and recovery obligations, as happens elsewhere in the system.

The burden placed on reprocessors and exporters is cited as one of the main reasons these companies do not become accredited, and has led to recycling performance being under-reported – something that Alupro has worked hard to address over many years.

Accreditation should be compulsory for businesses in every part of the packaging system and compliance schemes should actively assist them in this process. Penalties should be just that – not an opportunity to pass off failure to comply with a legal obligation as a corporate and social responsibility exercise.

Under civil sanctions, such packaging producers have given donations to charity, which all sounds very worthy, but I would argue that the money should have been donated directly to recycling- related projects rather than to charities that do not always have a direct recycling connection. For instance, funding could have been given to WRAP (a registered charity) to help fund recycling projects.

The recycling sector knows what needs to be done directly to improve recycling services and processes. As an example, we calculate that if the £300,000 paid out to charities for packaging compliance breaches was instead put into running MetalMatters programmes, more than 1.2 million households could directly receive this targeted messaging – what an impact that would have on our national recycling performance.

And with other recent reports showing that confusion among householders about what and how to recycle is causing contamination of materials, this would, in my opinion, have been a more logical investment.

2000 rick hindley alupro

2000 rick hindley alupro

Rick Hindley, executive director, Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro)

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