Government presses ahead with waste consultations

21 February 2019, Sarah Campbell

Plastic bottles

The government has opened four consultations seeking views on the reform of packaging and waste.

The consultations fulfil pledges made in the Resources and Waste Strategy, published in December. They include the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and the consistency of recycling collections. There is also a consultation on reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system so that producers pay all costs for disposal of packaging they place on the market.

In early February, a group of organisations including the Food and Drink Federation, the British Frozen Food Federation and UK Hospitality wrote to the environment secretary, Michael Gove, asking for him to to postpone the consultations until after Brexit. They said that food businesses don’t have the time or money to properly engage with industry-wide policy changes with the spectre of a no-deal Brexit on the horizon. They asked that Gove also hold off opening a consultation on restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods and drink.

“At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within government,” their letter said. “Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time. Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot.”

The letter effectively threatened a boycott of the consultations in the face of Gove’s ‘sign of bad faith’.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a generic response to the letter, saying: "Leaving the EU with a deal remains the government’s top priority, and we are meeting weekly with representatives from our food and drink industry to help prepare for all scenarios. While we have intensified our no deal planning, we are continuing to tackle other priority issues that matter to people, including our plans to reduce plastic waste and deliver a Green Brexit."

The consultations are:

Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Closes 13 May 2019

Consistency in Household and Business Recycling Collections in England
Closes 13 May 2019

Reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system
Closes 13 May 2019

Plastic packaging tax
Closes 12 May 2019

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