15 January 2019

In December, the government launched its Resources and Waste Strategy for England which aims for all plastic packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 and in the longer term to stamp out all avoidable plastic waste.  According to the report we use 5 million tonnes of plastic in the UK every year, nearly half of which is packaging.

A key theme of the strategy is to make manufacturers pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste by reforming the ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR).  While manufacturers already pay part of this, and have legal obligations to minimise packaging, the new reforms will require the producer to pay the full net cost.This is to further encourage manufacturers to design products and packaging which can be more easily reused or recycled after use.  These reforms are expected to be in place by 2021 and implemented by 2023.  There is also likely to be a tax on packaging containing less than 30% recycled plastic.

We know many brands are already working on reducing waste, but it’s possible that the price of products will go up to reflect the additional charges

The ‘polluter pays’ principle will apply to hair and beauty products and their packaging.    According to research for Zero Waste Week, 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry.  Packaging can include plastic containers, plastic wrappings, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, foam and so on.  Hilary Hall, chief executive of the NHF/NBF said, “We know many brands are already working on reducing waste, but it’s possible that the price of products will go up to reflect the additional charges for waste disposal or for redeveloping packaging into more environmentally friendly forms.” 

The strategy also promotes improved waste collection and recycling facilities, not only for households but for businesses too.  A survey of NHF/NBF members revealed some frustration with local authority recycling arrangements, for example being unable to use local recycling bins for business waste.  As one Member said, “Surely a cardboard box is just a cardboard box, no matter where it goes to!”

A consultation will also take place on increasing the plastic bag charge from 5p, probably to 10p, and extending the charge to small businesses.  At present, the charge only applies to businesses with more than 250 staff, although smaller businesses can charge on a voluntary basis.  The 5p charge has led to over 15 billion plastic bags being taken out of circulation by the 7 main retailers since its introduction in October 2015, but it is estimated that small businesses account for a further 3 billion bags used each year.  This proposal would bring England into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where the charge has always applied to all businesses.