wrap packaging waste

Michael Gove announced the strategy today, including a raft of proposals aimed at eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030

The grocery industry will have to pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of packaging under a new government strategy which also sets the date for a deposit return scheme.

A DRS will be rolled out in England in early 2023 under the plans, and will include single-use cups. Producers will begin paying the full net cost of recycling or disposing of materials they put on the market from later the same year. Both measures are subject to a consultation to be launched early next year.

The Resources and Waste Strategy for England also proposes ensuring weekly separate food waste collections for every household by 2023.

The strategy, announced today by environment secretary Michael Gove, includes a raft of proposals aimed at eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030 and ‘avoidable waste of all kinds’ by 2050.

Read more: Scotland likely to go it alone on deposit return scheme

Making producers pay full recycling or disposal costs is expected to raise between £0.5bn and £1bn a year, which will go towards establishing a defined set of recyclable materials to be separated by consumers and collected by all local authorities, backed up by legislation.

Producers of goods that are difficult to recycle including batteries and electrical goods will have to pay more under the plans.

Annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses will be mandated subject to a consultation to be launched in mid-2019.

Businesses face the prospect of legislation requiring them to separate food waste and recycling from general waste and publish or make available information on what is recycled.

There will also be a consultation on ‘increasing our successful 5p plastic bag charge to 10p, and extending the scheme to small retailers’.

Extended guarantees could be mandated and manufacturers required to disclose expected product lifetimes.

“Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle,” said Gove. “Together we can move away from being a ‘throwaway’ society to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.

“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.”

In depth: Do plastic alternatives actually cause more damage?

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers and consumers want to see a world with no plastic pollution and high levels of recycling. We therefore welcome a strategic approach to boosting the country’s recycling rates and waste management.”

He added: “However, the public must also be given further reassurances that the materials they are putting into their recycling bins are actually being recycled. The government must be clear that the revenues raised from businesses through the proposals outlined will be reinvested into recycling infrastructure.”

Opie warned that extending DRS to coffee cups and glass would add “further significant costs to high street retailers already struggling with business rates and rents”.

On increasing the plastic bag charge, he said: “Bag use had already been cut by 85% from 2015 following the introduction of the 5p charge so any further reduction is likely to be marginal. Also, many major retailers have already moved to 10p bags for life. A better strategy would be to extend the charge to all stores, something we had asked for as we believe that consistency will reinforce cultural change amongst consumers.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “Separate food waste collections for all households would be a giant step forward. We have consistently called for this. But this is just the start of the urgent action required to radically overhaul our creaking waste management system.”