recycling materials in bins
Published date: 10 June 2021

NLWA Calls on Government to go Further and Faster on Packaging Schemes

Waste authority concerned legislation will not be in place soon enough in face of climate ‘emergency’

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is calling on the government to speed up and improve plans to bring in packaging schemes as it has submitted its response to Government consultations on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)*. The UK’s second largest waste authority is today signalling its firm view that:

  • There must be no further delays to EPR, which would make companies responsible for dealing with their packaging at the end of its life, and DRS, in which consumers pay a deposit on soft drinks bought in shops, which they get back by returning the empty bottles or cans.
  • Further action is still needed on waste prevention and packaging reuse before the end of its life and
  • the urgent need for a simple, clear labelling system for everyday goods so that people know what packaging can be recycled, and what can’t.
  • It should also show whether packaging is covered by the DRS when that is introduced.
  • Local authorities should have powers to make recycling compulsory.

Both the EPR and DRS consultations have been delayed by over a year after a previous consultation in 2019. The consultation on making household recycling collections consistent across England is only just released. By the time the first of these schemes (EPR) is introduced in 2023, 28bn[i] more plastic bottles will have been bought in the UK alone and globally, 2m seabirds and 200,000 marine mammals such as whales and turtles[ii] could have been killed through eating plastic.  NLWA calls on the government to move forward as soon as possible to introduce schemes which will benefit the environment and the society we live in.

Under these proposals, there are few incentives for packaging producers to focus on prevention and reuse, and no action is expected on these until at least 2025 under separate legislation. This effectively gives producers the green light to churn out single-use plastic for another 4-5 years. By then, at least 12.5m[iii] tonnes of avoidable plastic packaging would have been produced in the UK alone.[iv].

Labelling about how to dispose of everyday products can be baffling to consumers, leading many to wrongly put items like nappies, food and clothes in their recycling bin. This causes contamination of clean recycling, wasting the recycling efforts of entire streets and costing taxpayers £2m a year in north London alone. Consumers regularly report that better labelling would make it easier for consumers to know what can – and can’t – be recycled. Labelling is also critical with a deposit return scheme.  NLWA therefore calls for a single labelling system to be adopted on all packaging.

Chair of North London Waste Authority, Cllr Clyde Loakes, says: “Given the Climate Emergency, we have serious concerns that there is a lot of talking and not enough real action – delays are literally costing the Earth. And whilst these proposals are a good start, we believe they could go further, particularly on preventing waste in the first place – companies cannot keep making new plastic packaging just because it can be recycled – there is enough in the system already.

“These schemes must not be designed for producers, but for the benefit of the planet and our communities. We support ambitious action.  We will champion with Government comprehensive action to reinforce the polluter pays principle and we will challenge where we think this is not being achieved.