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Plastic products of all different shapes and sizes

The government has today (26 July) deferred a key aspect of its Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, citing concerns over inflation.

DEFRA announced that the requirement for manufacturers to pay for the cost of recycling their packaging will be deferred by a year, from October 2024 to 2025, although other aspects of EPR will remain in place.

Reducing costs

EPR aims to both reduce waste and boost recycling by making manufacturers and importers take responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout their life cycle.

DEFRA said the decision was made jointly with devolved administrations and added that it will use the extra year to “discuss the scheme’s design with industry and reduce the costs of implementation wherever possible.”

‘Transforming’ recycling

Environment minister, Rebecca Pow, said DEFRA was “determined to transform the way we collect, recycle and reuse our waste materials” in order to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050.

She added: “We are also listening to industry and ensuring our work to tackle inflation and to drive up recycling go hand in hand, to make sure our reforms will be a success.”

DEFRA reaffirmed that it remained “committed to delivering on its commitments” to reduce waste.

Reporting requirements

Other aspects of EPR have not changed and will remain in place.

Companies will still be required to collect data on packaging activity and report these figures to the government, although there are different timescales for larger and smaller firms.

Businesses can see if they need to take action here.

Industry reacts

Industry sources welcomed the decision to delay the fees, citing uncertainty around the policy and the risk of additional costs during a time of increasing inflation.

Margaret Bates, managing director at On-Pack Recycling Label, said the delay “offers an opportunity for those ready to use the time constructively. Those which prepare now will benefit from lower fee costs and show a strong brand response.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability of the British Retail Consortium, told Drapers: "The government is right to extend the timelines on its packaging reform. Its plans are not ready, and this would simply drive up food prices without delivering the improvements in recycling everybody wants.”

Simon Roberts, CEO of Sainsbury’s, also welcomed the announcement, saying that it was necessary for both industry and government to “get EPR right first time.”

Green agenda

The possibility of the delay was reported by the Grocer earlier this month, amid speculation in the national media over whether the governing Conservative Party and opposition Labour Party might be about to row back on some of its environmental pledges.

Policies around net zero have been in the spotlight following Simon Tuckwell’s surprise win in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, following a campaign that largely focussed on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s plans to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone scheme to the constituency.