The UK Government has introduced consultations to revamp the country’s waste system, reduce plastic pollution, and move towards a more circular economy.

Building on the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, the consultations will focus on enabling packaging producers to pay the full cost to tackle packaging waste.

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They will also focus on bringing a consistent set of materials collected across England from households for recycling.

The government is planning to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans and bottles, which is expected to recycle around three billion plastic bottles.

As part of the consultations, the government will ask companies to follow a consistent labelling system on packaging to allow consumers to know what they can recycle.

It will also focus on introducing food waste collections for every household in England as well as free garden waste collections for households with gardens.

Consultations focus on introducing a tax on plastic packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of 30% recycled content starting in April 2022.

“We will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging.”

UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste. That’s why we are leading the way to move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society and drive up domestic recycling.

“Through our plans, we will introduce a world-leading tax to boost recycled content in plastic packaging, make producers foot the bill for handling their packaging waste and end the confusion over household recycling.

“We are committed to cementing our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”

The government is also planning to introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials for collection in England in a move to increase household recycling levels.

It will also work towards identifying ways to implement this move as well as exploring options to include widely recyclable materials such as plastic bottles and pots, tubs and trays, glass packaging, paper and card, as well as metal packaging under the scheme.

Industry reaction to UK waste consultation

Biffa head of environment and external affairs Jeff Rhodes commented: “We’re pleased to see the government progressing some of the key consultations proposed in last year’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

“It’s vital we find ways to use our resources more efficiently and the various new schemes being consulted on having the potential to drive this, so long as they are developed and implemented realistically and consistently across the supply chains and Great Britain.”

TOMRA Collection Solutions UK and Ireland managing director Truls Haug said: “TOMRA is involved in deposit return schemes in more than 60 markets, so we have vast experience in this area. We look forward to sharing our knowledge on how to ensure the scheme is as effective as possible.

“Successful deposit return schemes can play a significant role in sparking a recycling revolution and we will be watching with interest to see the consultation results in due course.”

A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland commented: “In the UK we throw away 300 billion pieces of plastic every year. We recycle 9% of it in the UK. We export a huge amount to developing countries. We need a giant stride not a fairy step and we need it now, not in 2022.

“We need Michael Gove to be strong on this. Already we are seeing signs of the strategy being watered down. We owe it to our children that we step up and do the right thing now and do not falter. In ten years time we will be answerable to them – not to the oil lobbyists.”

Additional reporting by Rosie Lintott.