The British Retail Consortium (BRC), a leading industry association, has called for an urgent government reconsideration of current waste management plans.

The trade body’s primary focus seems to be on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). This is a rule that makes companies take more responsibility for what happens to their products after we’re done using them. They have to either pay money or collect the products themselves.

The goal of EPR is to encourage companies to make products that are better for the environment. It also aims to increase how much we reuse and recycle things and make sure more products are collected after we’re done with them.

The BRC believes that six crucial reforms are necessary to establish a future-proof waste management system. Major retailers are demanding a world-class Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme that promotes the use of recycled materials in packaging to align with their sustainability goals.

However, they express concerns about the current proposals put forth by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). This article highlights the key demands of retailers and their apprehensions regarding the proposed EPR scheme.

Retailers call for enhanced EPR scheme and ring-fenced funds

Major retailers are urging the government to address the shortcomings of the proposed EPR scheme, which is estimated to cost at least £1.7bn annually.

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They emphasise the need for an EPR scheme that significantly increases the use of recycled materials in new packaging to support their ambitious sustainability targets.

The BRC insists on ring-fencing EPR funds to prevent local councils from diverting money away from recycling to other budget streams. This measure would ensure that the funds allocated for recycling are exclusively used for that purpose, minimising the risk of misappropriation.

Coordinated waste management reforms and household waste collection

In addition to a robust EPR scheme, the BRC emphasises the importance of coordinating waste management reforms. They argue that EPR alone will not be effective without simultaneous improvements in household waste collection.

Therefore, the trade association calls for a comprehensive approach that integrates both EPR and enhanced household waste collection systems.

The BRC suggests considering the implementation of a new deposit return scheme similar to successful models found in high-performing European and Canadian programs. Such a scheme would help bridge any gaps in the waste management system.

Concerns over environmental impact and cost burden

The BRC expresses concern that the current proposals put the UK at risk of regressing environmentally while imposing significant costs on businesses and their customers.

BRC chief executive officer Helen Dickinson criticises the government’s hasty implementation of the new system, arguing that it undermines the very purpose of the scheme.

She calls for the government to revisit the drawing board to design a waste management scheme that improves recycling rates in the UK and ensures a steady supply of recyclable materials for future packaging.

The BRC warns that the combined costs of the EPR and Deposit Return Schemes could add approximately £4bn to retailers’ expenses, eventually leading to increased prices for consumers.

Government response and industry engagement

Defra assures its commitment to working closely with industry stakeholders during the finalisation of the EPR scheme’s design and delivery plans.

The department acknowledges the extensive engagement with waste and packaging companies, manufacturers, retailers, environmental organisations and local government to gather valuable input for future packaging reforms.

Defra aims to involve industry perspectives in key decisions and policy shaping, recognising the importance of collaboration and collective efforts in establishing an effective waste management system.