EPR changes in the UK

ERP UK Managing Director, John Redmayne talks about changes to the UK’s WEEE, batteries and packaging systems and what the new policies will mean for producers.

The overall timetable for changes is set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy published at the end of 2018. This identifies 2023 for a new packaging EPR regime to become operational. Dates for review of other EPR regulations are also included: WEEE in 2019; batteries in 2020; packaging essential requirements by the end of 2020; and end-of-life vehicles in 2021.  However, in light of the pressures of dealing with the covid-19 pandemic, it seems likely that some of these target dates will change.

Although the UK’s WEEE system was revised significantly in 2013, the packaging waste regulations date from their 2007 revision, and the batteries regulations are largely unchanged since their introduction in 2010, so all of the regulations can be considered to be due for review for effective governance. In addition, national EPR regulations are now expected to conform to some broad principles established in the EU’s Circular Economy Package, most significantly those in Article 8a of the Waste Framework Directive which expect ‘full net cost recovery’ from producers, eco-modulation of fees to reflect eco-design, and various other measures.  On top of this, there are various shortcomings in each of the current systems, including the apparent over-contribution of portable lead acid batteries to the UK’s recycling performance which need to be addressed.

The options range from amending the current system (option 1) through to wholesale reform and a monopoly system (option 4).  The proposals are one of the weaker areas of the report with limited detail or analysis, so it is difficult to provide a detailed critique of each.  However, I would point out our concern is that the focus on the benefits of a monopoly system appear to be a result of Eunomia’s belief that this is the only way to introduce eco-modulation. As an organisation, ERP was established by producers to counter defects commonly experienced with monopoly EPR systems, and providing a competitive alternative for producers remains fundamental to us as part of Landbell Group, so we do not support option 4.

This ‘over collection’ has received a significant amount of attention, including close scrutiny of the data.  Although, for various technical reasons, ERP does not consider the data to be necessarily flawed, we support the more fundamental point that collection and recycling of portable lead acid batteries does not require support from producers – and that the UK system should instead focus its attention (and producers’ financial support) on the collection and recycling of ‘other’ portable batteries. We have been working with producer trade associations, as well as other schemes, to identify what types of changes to the UK battery system might be appropriate and have already shared our suggestions with Defra (the UK’s Department for the Environment).  We need to await the government’s consultation to see what aspects are proposed – this is anticipated later this year.

We anticipate that the details will have evolved significantly since the first consultation in 2019 which included 4 options so, until we see the details of the two options, it is perhaps best not to comment further.  Our preference for there to be choice for producers through competitive EPR regimes has already been mentioned, but we will look carefully at the details of any options presented.

The proposed reforms around packaging included a plastic tax (which would be a world first) and HMRC (the UK’s tax authority) has recently released a policy design consultation on this.  The deadline for responding has been extended until 20 August and we very much encourage companies to look at the proposals and respond.

Sadly, we don’t get involved in the drafting!  However, as a significant player in all of the UK’s EPR regimes, we continuously focus our efforts on improving each of the EPR regimes in the UK.  To do this, we draw on our producer-oriented perspective and Landbell Group’s unique experience of operating 32 schemes across EMEA. We also listen to the views of our members, other producers and their trade associations, and combine this with our understanding of the regimes and their current operation.  We share our perspectives and suggestions with government early on in the process and, of course, we also get involved in working groups, stakeholder events and other activities ahead of the release of formal consultations.  We always brief our members on consultations and establish whether to provide a response as a scheme and/or on their behalf. We are there to guide and inform our producer members through all the changes.

About

John Redmayne leads ERP UK, Landbell Group’s producer compliance business in the UK.  John joined the environmental industry in 1985 and has been working in waste management for over 20 years. He has cross-sector experience from roles in the third sector (Chief Executive of white goods refurbishment social enterprise, CREATE UK), the private sector (Senior Consultant with environmental consultancy, Eunomia) and local government (Executive Director of the Project Integra waste partnership in Hampshire).

John is a member of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (MCIWM) and represents the WEEE Schemes Forum on the BSI GEL/111 Electrotechnical Environment Committee.

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