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UK Resource Waste Strategy: Changes to producer responsibility

January 23rd, 2019
On 18 December 2018, the UK government published their Resource Waste Strategy. Designed to implement the UK’s 25-year plan for environmental improvement, the new strategy outlines waste management plans, including changes to producer responsibility, which are likely to be implemented in the coming years.

Increased costs for packaging producers

The current packaging regime is to be reviewed during 2019 and new regulations should be in place by 2021. The reform will see producers being responsible for all costs associated to packaging waste management which will include any costs associated with data collection and enforcement not just costs associated to treatment. A consultation that will determine exactly how much cost is associated to the management of packaging waste will be conducted to determine the fees to be paid by producers. 
With increased costs for producers inevitable, the strategy also lays out plans to adopt incentives to encourage producers to use less unnecessary packaging and to use packaging which can be recycled more easily. Thus, it will be in producers’ financial interests to use less packaging and packaging which is more environmentally friendly.

WEEE and Batteries Regime Changes

A review of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations is due in 2019 and a review of the batteries regulations is due in 2020. Similar to the proposed changes for packaging, the strategy plans to encourage producers to design electrical equipment to facilitate reuse/recycling. The strategies that will be used to encourage producers are not mentioned. 
One key point mentioned in the strategy which related to batteries is the weaknesses associated to battery collection in the UK. This will likely be addressed during the review of the batteries regulations which is due in 2020. 

Additional Waste Streams 

By the end of 2025, there will be a review and consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility provisions for five new waste streams:
  • Textiles
  • Bulky waste such as furniture, mattresses and carpets
  • Waste materials from the construction and demolition sector
  • Vehicle tyres
  • Fishing gear

Tackling Free-riding

For WEEE and batteries, the strategy mentions that the proposed regulation reviews may lead to the introduction of measures to tackle free-riding associated with online sellers.
Essentially, if online sellers do not implement compliance arrangements, the compliance fees paid by sellers that have implemented compliance arrangements are unfairly high. The fees charged to registered producers typically correspond with the amount of waste that needs to be processed, the cost to treat the waste, and the amount of companies registered. Thus, if not all sellers are registered, the sellers that are registered are providing for higher proportions of waste than they are placing on the market. 

The issue of free-riding has a huge impact on how producer responsibility regulations can manage waste. During 2018, several organisations expressed concerns with free-riding across Europe:
  • In June 2018, OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) published a report which addresses the impact of free-riding from online sellers and stresses the importance of addressing the issue. 
  • In November 2018, five large environmental NGO’s called on the German Ministers of Economy and the Environment to act against online free-riders; the letter published by the NGO’s is publicly available
  • During a seminar hosted by Eucolight, the European association for lighting WEEE compliance schemes, many industry associates highlighted the issues caused by free-riding from online sellers (Source: Materials Recycling World).
Even though the UK’s future is uncertain in the context of European led Extended Producer Responsibility regimes, the new Resource Waste Strategy shows that responsibilities placed on WEEE, Batteries and Packaging producers operating in the UK is only likely to increase over the coming years. To stay up to date with the strategy's implementation, sign up to our mailing list below.