The government has delayed the introduction of its controversial extended producer responsibility policy for at least a year, amid warnings from the industry that the scheme would drive up food prices.
As Defra confirmed fees that were due to start in October 2024 will now not be applicable until at least October 2025, The Grocer rounds up the reaction from key figures in the industry:
Karen Betts, CEO, FDF
“It’s a bold decision to go back to the drawing board and reappraise the scheme and the corresponding waste reforms but it’s the right one, especially in the current economic climate with inflation at record levels.
“But the hard work starts now. It’s critical that government works rapidly with industry and others to ensure we create a consistent, efficient, nationwide scheme that drives up recycling rates across the UK and enables more recycled material to be used for new packaging.
“Food and drink manufacturers want EPR – we need it if we are to meet our stretching environmental targets. We stand ready to work closely with government, learning from schemes already in operation around the world to design a policy that works for consumers, industry and the environment.”
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability, BRC
“The government is right to extend the timelines on its packaging reform. Its plans are not ready, and this would simply drive up food prices without delivering the improvements in recycling everybody wants. We need to use the additional time to design an effective recycling scheme that delivers value for money for households across the UK.
“Recycling rates have stagnated for a decade. If they are to rise, there must be better co-ordination of the government’s waste reforms so that there is consistency in how we recycle across the country. It’s also vital that the £2bn extended producer responsibility is expected to raise annually, is targeted towards improving infrastructure to boost the supply of recycled material for reuse. We look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure that EPR delivers for the environment and for consumers.”
Margaret Bates, MD, OPRL
“The delay offers an opportunity for those ready to use the time constructively. Those which prepare now will benefit from lower fee costs and show a strong brand response.
“EPR is designed to drive recyclability and all the associated benefits. It is spreading across the globe and will affect large businesses across their portfolio. For the UK it is important to recognise it as direction of travel, rather than a standalone piece of legislation. Recent OPRL research showed that, despite the cost of living crisis, consumers are behind recycling – 81% agreed that recycling is very important. With or without EPR, consumers are likely to call for greater recyclability.”
Kathy Illingworth , head of sustainability & consulting, Ecoveritas
“It’s bittersweet. This pause for thought should allow Defra to build in more clarity, but there is certainly a job to be done to rebuild confidence. At the same time, all eyes will be on the industry now, who, having gotten the delay they wanted, should rally around a good policy for the planet and the environment. Perhaps the government can now make progress on the consistency of collection by local authorities, which will be essential if EPR is to be the effective policy we know it can be.
“What is clear is that there were major question marks over the scheme’s readiness and a real lack of confidence. We must now prioritise agreeing and setting the fees this summer so that affected companies can plan for these additional costs.”
Paul Sanderson, CEO, Recycling Association
“This further delay to implementation of extended producer responsibility is unbelievable.
“We’ve been waiting too long for EPR and consistency of collections to be introduced, and we need to get on with it.
“Both of these policies have the potential to transform the UK recycling landscape, and provide essential funds to develop UK infrastructure. We’ve had too many years of drift already since these policies were first announced in 2018, and now it seems we won’t get any further until at least 2025. That is too long, especially as much of the detail should have long been worked out.
“This delay must ensure that we are fully ready to implement EPR and consistency of collections soon after with all of the policy detail worked out and agreed.”
Lee Marshall, policy and external affairs director, Chartered Body For Waste & Resource Professionals
“We believe this delay will have a significant impact, resulting in the public continuing to bear the cost of packaging recycling and disposal, less investment in recycling infrastructure due to a loss of confidence in the legislative framework, and a significant slowing of the UK’s green economy.”