The government’s ambitious plans to implement collection and packaging reforms by 2027 have been deemed “unachievable”, according to a recent report.

The report, titled the ‘2023 Project Delivery Confidence Report’, was published last week by the government’s Infrastructure and Project Authority, which collaborates with HMRC and the Treasury to assess project delivery.

Red ranking for packaging reforms

The report evaluated the delivery of three crucial components of the packaging reforms – Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), consistency in recycling and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) – with respect to the 2027 deadline.

The assessment resulted in a “red” ranking, indicating that the successful delivery of these reforms appears to be unachievable.

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This designation signals major issues that currently seem unmanageable or resolvable, possibly requiring the need for reassessment or adjustments.

Challenges and delays in implementation

The report attributed the low delivery confidence to the challenging timescales for implementing the reforms. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is facing difficulties meeting the specified deadlines.

Despite ongoing efforts to strengthen plans, programme control and benefits management, the reforms programme has experienced repeated delays.

The response for consistency in recycling remains outstanding, further complicating the situation.

Budget variance and potential delay

Budget-wise, the costs have exceeded the original estimate by more than 5%, primarily due to the delays and the possibility of baseline changes.

The project’s departmental-agree monetised benefits amount to £1.16bn, but there are anticipated additional benefits currently under review.

The report also raises concerns about the feasibility of the target end date, though limited contingency plans are available.

Industry stakeholders have expressed apprehensions regarding the reforms, with some advocating for a delay to avoid increased costs for consumers. The Prime Minister has acknowledged these concerns but has not confirmed any official decision regarding a potential delay.

Meanwhile, DEFRA maintains that its position on the matter has not changed.