Reducing waste, reinventing recycling

By Will Keer, Business Director, SWRnewstar

Last week the government launched consultations on two policies designed to reduce waste and reinvent recycling in the UK. Focussed on packaging, both policies will boost the shift to a circular economy by changing the current production and recycling system:

  1. Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) covers drinks containers
  2. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) covers packaging, including for food and drink.

The details of both initiatives are still to be finalised, but foodservice businesses should be aware of the principles and starting to plan for the potential impacts of both schemes.

Deposit Return Scheme

Following the pattern of similar schemes around the world a 20p container deposit will be paid when purchasing drinks. The deposit will be paid and returned at each stage in the supply chain from wholesalers to street food trucks. The scheme incentivises recycling, because the 20p deposit is only redeemed when the empty container is returned and recycled through the scheme.

Drinks containers ‘in scope’ for DRS include:

  • Glass bottles for drinks
  • Steel and aluminium drink cans
  • PET plastic bottles

Water, alcohol, and soft drink containers are all included. Containers for liquid ‘foods’ are not included i.e. sauces or oils. Standard milk containers are not included because they are already widely recycled and made with recycled plastic.

Potential impacts for foodservice businesses to consider include:

  • cash flow; factoring in deposit costs and time taken for deposit return
  • adapting systems to track containers on which the deposit has been paid or refunded
  • offering container takeback options in house and with deliveries
  • separate, secure storage for returned DRS containers
  • space for additional bins for DRS and non-DRS recycling
  • wastage; deposit reclaims

The latest plans are to introduce the scheme in 2022 in Scotland and 2024 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. DRS will be co-ordinated by an independent administrator who will manage the material and money involved. Current proposals indicate that there will be a mechanism to reimburse businesses for any additional costs incurred.

Extended Producer Responsibility

EPR shifts the full financial cost of managing packaging waste to the businesses who put the material into the market. This incentivises producers to design packaging that is easier to recycle or reuse, and to reduce the total volume of packaging manufactured.

Foodservice organisations with £2m+ turnover producing over 50 tonnes of packaging annually will be considered ‘producers’. Packaging made from paper, card, plastic, steel, aluminium and wood will be covered, with paper cups under consideration.

Current plans are to introduce EPR across the UK in 2023, and funding from the scheme will support recycling collections from households and ‘household’ like waste i.e. offices and small businesses.

Plastics Tax

A new Plastics Tax will be introduced in April 2022, in addition to DRS and EPR. The £200/tonne tax will apply to plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled plastic. The impact on the price of individual items for foodservice businesses is expected to be minimal because plastic is light.

Consultation links

If you’d like to have your say on DRS then click here, and for EPR then click here. The consultation on these schemes runs until 4 June.

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