LGA response to Defra consultation: Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging

About the LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales. Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.

Summary

The LGA welcomes the opportunity to continue to contribute to the consultations on resources and waste reforms, first set out in the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy. Here we set out an overview of the LGA’s response to the package of reforms. We have also answered the individual questions in each of the consultations.

The LGA supports the ambition for an increase in recycling rates. As the Resources and Waste Strategy notes councils have a good story to tell on the growth in recycling, which has been maintained at its current level of around 45 per cent in recent years even though central government funding for councils has reduced by £15bn, nearly 60 per cent, since 2010. The local government sector is ready to take on the challenge of improving recycling levels and the overall waste service it provides to its residents. Our work in understanding the reforms continues and we are grateful for the engagement with DEFRA.

However, since the last round of government consultations in 2019 the world has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only had a devasting societal impact both at home and globally, it has also had a significant financial impact on councils up and down the country. Millions of people have moved from working in offices to working at home, consumer habits have changed around how and when people shop and local councils have seen an increase in the amount of material they are collecting from the kerbside as a result of these changes.

Below we set out some of the areas that need further engagement and consideration, but first we set out the emerging sector wide view of the reforms based on our engagement with councils:

  • The reforms to the producer responsibility schemes are long overdue and we agree with the Government’s aim that producers should be responsible for 100 per cent of the costs of managing packaging waste.
  • The majority of councils are already collecting a set of dry recyclables resembling that proposed in the consistency consultation. Where there are substantial additional costs for councils in complying with the proposed set, these should be met by new burden funding and/or transition funding. However, consistency cannot be applied to collections alone, it must also be a principle in the design and recyclability of packaging.
  • How waste is collected should continue to be determined locally. Current approaches reflect a range of local factors. The vast majority of people are not constantly on the move and they do not have to negotiate different local systems. Residents need to know what can be recycled, which is dependent on producers making this very clear on packaging, and their local method for collection. The current differences in the collection service will take into account local geography and housing types and the investment in and availability of sorting and reprocessing infrastructure.
  • The mandating of food waste collection means that all councils should receive new burdens funding to pay for this service even if they have previously been collecting food waste on a voluntary basis.
  • Councils should continue to be allowed to charge for garden waste collection. In our view residents are willing to pay for this service and from our engagement with councils there is little evidence of garden waste being diverted to residual waste as a result of the charge.

We make the following additional general points on the package reforms:

Scope of the reforms: the reforms focus on increasing recycling but also need to consider action first to prevent waste. The consultations have little to say on whether and how to reduce the overall level of packaging entering the system or the mechanisms for stimulating investment in end of life reprocessing infrastructure. The reforms implicitly rely on market forces to stimulate the use of the right type of packaging, but do not reference an ambition to reduce the overall level of packaging entering the system. Similarly it is assumed that the market will absorb an increase in the supply of recyclable material but there is no discussion on whether incentives are required, the types of preferred reprocessing procedures, the siting of infrastructure, or the timescales for bringing new infrastructure on stream. The current reprocessing market is patchy both geographically and in the depth of its capacity.

Reduction in the quantity of packaging entering the system should be an explicit aim. The government should also signal its long-term preference for how we reprocess recyclable material and consider the incentives that might be required to encourage investment in the right infrastructure in the right place. The Government must also recognise the investment that has taken place already at the local level, for example in energy from waste plants, with the support of past Governments. Any policy and/or tax changes to legacy systems will have a significant financial impact.

The relationship between the reforms: The individual reforms will have an impact on each other, but these feedback or spill over effects are not explicitly articulated or mitigated in the consultation documents. One example is the impact of an all-in DRS system on the net cost of kerbside collections. A second is how the EPR and DRS systems interact in the discharge of the overall producer responsibility and the relationship to payments that councils will receive for their role in recycling. The links between the various reforms need to be made more explicit so that councils can understand fully the implications of taking forward any particular set of reforms.

Funding: Local government needs clarity about the future funding of the waste service. The Government states that “the funding to meet [packaging waste] costs will transfer from central and local taxpayers to businesses”. [Consultation on reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system]. Current funding of local authority waste services is not transparent. Councils’ funding is made up of council tax, retained business rates, Revenue Support Grant (RSG), specific grants, fees and charges and commercial activities. There is not a line in central government’s budget that is specific to waste services and changes in the composition of local government finance, through a series of financial reforms, means that it is not possible to assess how much funding has been made available by central government for local authority waste collection and disposal.

It is imperative that producers fully fund, through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) measures, both the current waste collection and disposal costs as well as costs associated with increasing the recycling rate. The funding arising from the EPR should flow in its entirety to local government.

The ‘polluter pays’ principle with regard to packaging has been incorporated into European legislation for the past 25 years[1]. In that time the proportion of recycling costs that have been paid for by businesses in other European countries has far exceeded that paid by businesses in the UK[2]. Defra estimates that producers will contribute £1billion to household collection costs in the first full year of implementation of the reformed EPR and £200 million for the management of bin and ground litter packaging[3]. We know that there is more work to do in developing the data and funding mechanisms and we want to work with Defra and Wrap on this. The Government must now commit to the funding that comes from an improved producer responsibility system being additional.

Assumptions: WRAP has been gathering and analysing data on waste management and recycling for the last 17 years and it has undoubted expertise in this area. We have worked with WRAP to test their model against a sample of actual data from councils. This revealed challenges for the modelling process as councils do not record their costs in a standard format, and generic standards of efficiency had to be adjusted when applied to real places. The EPR consultation paper recognises that the data needed for modelling payments to councils is incomplete, notably on the number and location of flats in an area. Defra and WRAP must share their modelling assumptions with local government and address any gaps in data now, in order to meet the planned 2023 start date for EPR payments.

The model stylises an ideal collection system, a preferred model being multi-stream collection, and uses this as a basis for determining the extent to which councils are ‘efficient’. This approach is used in the impact assessments to project savings as a result of councils moving to an idealised system. The model does not take into account, and nor can it, the peculiarities of geography and housing types in any given area. What WRAP determines as inefficiencies and therefore potential savings, are in our view the product of good local decisions based on a range of local factors that seek to optimise the waste service within the constraints of geography and housing types.

Future work: We have answered the questions in the consultation as fully as we can. However, as most if not all the questions are multiple choice, you are likely to find that one person’s ‘yes’ is the same as another persons’ ‘no’. There are also still many grey areas. More work is still required to understand and refine the reforms and we look forward to our continued engagement with DEFRA on these matters.

Consultation Questions

Chapters 2 and 3: Introduction and background

Questions 1-3:

Covered above – details of the organisation submitting the response.

Question 4: Would you like your response to be confidential?

No.

Question 5. Government will need to understand the needs of users to build digital services for Extended Producer Responsibility. Would you like your contact details to be added to a user panel for Extended Producer Responsibility so that we can invite you to participate in user research (e.g. surveys, workshops, interviews) or to test digital services as they are designed and built?

The LGA is happy to participate in user testing and pass on information to councils through our communication channels.

Chapter 4: principles, outcomes and targets

Key points:

  • We support higher recycling targets for producers and these should be extended to activity that goes beyond recycling and supports the circular economy, such as promoting re-use and refill.
  • Producers must own these targets and commit to delivering them. Where the improvement in performance is expected to be delivered through the actions of councils this must be clearly articulated in an implementation plan, and properly resourced through EPR payments.
  • The revised EPR scheme must be aligned with central and local government’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions. We would like to see evidence that higher recycling targets have taken the impact on carbon emissions into account.

6. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed framework for setting packaging targets?

We agree with the proposed framework for setting packaging targets.

7. Do you agree or disagree that the business packaging waste recycling targets set for 2022 should be rolled over to the calendar year 2023?

The LGA supports the principle that 2023 should be treated as a transition year to the new Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme.

8. Do you agree or disagree that the recycling target to be met by 2030 for aluminium could be higher than the rate in Table 3?

The consultation paper notes that the potential for increasing the rate comes from capturing more aerosol and foil packaging. It is stated that the reason for low recycling rates is that these items are not collected by all councils.

Councils are willing to collect these items if they are properly funded through the EPR system. This must include support for communication and engagement with residents to help reduce contamination. For example, ensuring that aluminium food trays are cleaned before being placed in the recycling bin.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed minimum target to be met by 2030 for glass set out in table 3?

10. What should the glass re-melt target for 2030 for non-bottle packaging be set at?

The LGA supports more recycling of glass and for this material to be re-used in packaging where this is practical. We do not have any specific comments on the proposed glass targets.

11. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed minimum target to be met by 2030 for plastic set out in table 3?

We support a target that will encourage producers to take plastic recycling seriously. The LGA has repeatedly called for non-recyclable plastic to be removed from packaging.

Recycling targets are not the only way to achieve this and other measures such as modulated fees must be used as part of a wider approaching to reducing the environmental impact of plastic packaging.

12. Do you think a higher recycling target should be set for wood in 2030 than the minimum rate shown in Table 3?

13. If higher recycling targets are to be set for 2030, should a sub-target be set that encourages long term end markets for recycled wood?

The LGA does not have a view on wood recycling rates.

14. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed minimum target to be met by 2030 for steel set out in table 3?

We support a higher target, but would like to understand what actions would be needed to achieve a higher recycling rate. As the collection systems and infrastructure are in place for households, this uplift will have to be achieved by asking residents and to present steel materials (e.g cans) correctly for recycling. This requires investment in communication and support for councils to work with residents.

15. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed minimum target to be met by 2030 for paper/card set out in table 3?

As with the question on targets for steel, we support a higher target, but would like to understand what changes will be needed to increase participation rates with existing systems in order to increase recycling rates.

The rise of online shopping has changed the type of paper and card in the household waste stream. Councils report collecting significantly larger volumes of card during lockdown and the long term trend suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated a shift to online shopping. We agree that the definition of packaging needs to be "all products made from any material of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, and presentation of goods...."[4]

16. Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to set recycling targets for fibre-based composites?

We agree that better data is needed on the amount of fibre-based composite items such as paper cups entering the waste system and where they end up.

We are not able to comment on whether targets would motivate producers to capture more material for recycling. Government should also consider how producers could be encouraged to reduce the use of this type of material.

17. Do you agree or disagree that there may be a need for 'closed loop' recycling targets for plastics, in addition to the Plastics Packaging Tax?

The introduction of the Plastics Packaging Tax is an important lever for increasing the use of recycled plastic in packaging.

If this is implemented effectively it should act as a strong signal to the market. There are still technical problems with re-use of plastic, for example where recycled plastic does not meet the strict safety standards required for food grade packaging.

At this point in time we do not see a value in setting closed loop recycling targets for plastic, but we would welcome the opportunity to return to this question once we can see the impact of the plastics packaging tax.

18. Please indicate other packaging material that may benefit from 'closed loop' targets?

See the answer to question 17.

Chapter 5: producer obligations for full net cost payments and reporting

Key messages:

  • We are in happy in principle with the proposals in this chapter. We hope that producers will step up and take responsibility for dealing with packaging waste.
  • Where producers are allowed to “offset” packaging volumes rather than pay through EPR this must be subject to the same rigorous tests, for example on the quality and effectiveness of recycling processes.

19. Do you agree or disagree that Brand Owners are best placed to respond effectively and quickly to incentives that are provided through the scheme?

We agree that this is the most suitable point in the producer chain.

20. Are there any situations where the proposed approach to imports would result in packaging being imported into the UK which does not pick up an obligation (except if the importer or first-owner is below the de-minimis, or if the packaging is subsequently exported)?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

21. Of options 2 and 3, which do you think would be most effective at both capturing more packaging in the system and ensuring the smallest businesses are protected from excessive burden?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

22. If either option 2 or 3 is implemented, do you consider there to be a strong case to also reduce the de-minimis threshold as set out in option 1?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

23. Do you think that Online Marketplaces should be obligated for unfilled packaging in addition to filled packaging?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

24. Do you foresee any issues with Online Marketplaces not being obligated for packaging sold through their platforms by UK-based businesses?

We would be concerned that this would create a gap in the EPR system and the cost of dealing with material would fall to local authorities.

25. This proposal will require Online Marketplaces to assess what packaging data they can collate and then, where there are gaps to work together to create a methodology for how they will fill those gaps. Do you think there are any barriers to Online Marketplaces developing a methodology in time for the start of the 2022 reporting year (January 2022)?

This is a question for the producers to address.

26. Is there any packaging that would not be reported by the obligation as proposed below (except for packaging that is manufactured and sold by businesses who sit below the de-minimis)?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

27. Do you agree or disagree that the Allocation Method should be removed?

The LGA does not have an opinion on this question.

Chapter 6: producer obligations: disposable cups takeback

28. Do you agree or disagree that a mandatory, producer-led takeback obligation should be placed on sellers of filled disposable paper cups?

We agree that a mandatory, producer-led takeback obligation would add another option for recycling a difficult material and we support this proposal.

Taking a disposable cup back to a return point will not always be a practical option and many will end up in household waste or litter bins. EPR payments should still be required and the cost of any additional analysis of council collected waste should be paid for through EPR.

29. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed phased approach to introducing the takeback obligation, with larger businesses/sellers of filled disposable paper cups obligated by the end of 2023, and the obligation extended to all sellers of filled disposable paper cups by the end of 2025?

We support a flexible approach to the timetable for small businesses. The timetable for implementation must be aligned with plans for the timetable for the deposit return scheme. Small businesses selling hot and cold drinks for takeaway may be caught by both policies. Poorly planned implementation will add to the burden on small businesses.

Chapter 7: modulated fees, labelling and plastic films recycling

Key messages:

  • The reform of extended producer responsibility is an opportunity to prevent unnecessary waste, not just to increase recycling.
  • The LGA welcomes the inclusion of modulated fees as an important step towards waste prevention.

30. Do you think that the proposed strategic frameworks will result in a fair and effective system to modulate producer fees being established?

We support the principles of the strategic framework. Councils must have a strong voice in the decisions on which materials qualify for higher fees.

For too long the producers have been allowed to use a confusing array of materials in packaging with no accountability to councils, who have been left to pick up the cost. 

31. Do you agree or disagree that the Scheme Administrator should decide what measures should be taken to adjust fees if a producer has been unable to self-assess, or provides inaccurate information? This is in addition to any enforcement that might be undertaken by the regulators.

We are concerned that this proposal is open to exploitation and does not send the right message to producers. If producer have not been able to self-assess or if they provide inaccurate information there should be immediate sanctions. Therefore, we are not able to support this proposal.

32. Do you agree or disagree with our preferred approach (Option 1) to implementing mandatory labelling?

We disagree that option 1 is the best approach. Option 2 for a single labelling scheme is our preference it has the strongest potential to reduce confusion.

For too long the labelling placed on packaging has been confusing and in the worst cases it is misleading. The reform of EPR is an opportunity to make recycling is as simple as possible for consumers. Producers and government must take responsibility for effective communication through clear labelling if they want to see more recycling and less contamination.

33. Do you agree or disagree with the proposal that all producers could be required to use the same 'do not recycle' label?

We agree. There should be one “do not recycle” label and it must be prominently displayed so that householders see quickly and clearly how to dispose of an item of packaging.

34. Do you think that the timescales proposed provide sufficient time to implement the new labelling requirements?

The implementation of clear labelling must be treated as a priority because of the important role it plays in reducing confusion for householder. We support the current timetable and any delay will undermine the effectiveness of the package of reforms.

35. Do you agree or disagree that the labelling requirement should be placed on businesses who sell unfilled packaging directly to small businesses?

We support the intention to bring all packaging into the scope of EPR and for this to be manageable for small businesses. We agree that the labelling responsibility should sit with the packaging wholesaler or distributor rather than small businesses.

36. Do you think it would be useful to have enhancements on labels, such as including 'in the UK' and making them digitally enabled?

We do not have a view on whether “in the UK” should be added to labels. There does not appear to be any benefit to householders in adding this message.

QR codes may be helpful, but this needs to be aligned to the design of the DRS scheme which is also considering digitised labelling. Clear written labelling will still be needed with a QR code. We should not assume that every consumer will have access to a smart phone or will carry out an extra step before putting an item in the bin.

QR codes could be a useful tool in preventing litter. We would be interested to see if the technology could be developed to allow enforcement bodies to trace discarded packaging back to the purchaser.

Collection and recycling of plastic film and flexible packaging

37. Do you agree or disagree that local authorities across the UK who do not currently collect plastic films in their collection services should adopt the collection of this material no later than end of financial year 2026/27?

Our engagement with member councils has flagged up concerns about the cost implications and the lead-in times as this may require new infrastructure such as depots and transfer stations and new sorting equipment. This may require the purchase of land for new sites, and time to engage with residents in the surrounding areas over planning concerns.

The proposed end date may require councils to break or amend long term contracts at significant cost. If Government wish to impose this deadline they must guarantee that the transition costs for councils are fully funded through EPR and the new burdens process.

We are also seeking reassurance that markets will be ready to process plastic film. The timetable for developing new infrastructure must be aligned with the dates set for councils.  

38. Do you agree or disagree that collections of plastic films and flexibles from business premises across the UK could be achieved by end of financial year 2024/5?

We do not have enough data to be able to answer this question.

Modulated fees and labelling in relation to compostable and biodegradable plastic packaging

39. Do you agree or disagree that there should be an exemption from the ‘do not recycle’ label for biodegradable/compostable packaging that is filled and consumed (and collected and taken to composting/anaerobic digestion facilities that accept it), in closed loop situations where reuse or recycling options are unavailable?

Biodegradable/composting packaging should be labelled “do not recycle” and we disagree with the proposal for exemptions. Where compostable packaging is used in a closed setting (e.g. a festival) it should be the responsibility of the event organiser to manage and communicate the recycling arrangements.

40. Do you consider that any unintended consequences may arise as a result of the proposed approach to modulated fees for compostable and biodegradable plastic packaging?

No. Compostable and biodegradable plastic cannot be recycled through household waste infrastructure. It has the potential to confuse consumers and so the message must be clear and consistent.

Chapter 8: payments for managing packaging waste: necessary costs

41. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed definition and scope of necessary costs?

There are parts of the scope and definitions we support but there is not enough information in the proposals for us to reach a view either way.

We would like clarity on the assumptions that underpin the definitions of “efficient and effective” council services. The local government sector must have a strong voice in these discussions and the LGA would be happy to support this.

Chapter on payments for managing packaging waste from households

42. Do you agree or disagree that payments should be based on good practice, efficient and effective system costs and relevant peer benchmarks?

We accept that EPR payments to councils will need to be based on a model or formula, at least in the early years of the scheme while data is being built up.

Member councils are understandably anxious about where the benchmarks will be drawn, and whether this will disadvantage councils because of the nature of their areas and the existing infrastructure and supporting contracts. If councils are required to break long term contracts on the grounds that they are not efficient, the costs must be fully funded either through EPR payments or new burdens funding.

We are not able to support this proposal because of these concerns and the lack of detail provided in the consultation paper. We would be happy to work with Defra to find an alternative solution.

43. Do you agree or disagree that the per tonne payment to local authorities for packaging materials collected and sorted for recycling should be net off an average price per tonne for each material collected?

Defra has tested this question with councils in the last few months. This is a complex question and there is not a consensus view across councils.

There are significant concerns about how this would work. For example in situations where material is handled by a third party, such as a waste management company.

If the scheme fulfils its purpose the amount of packaging in circulation will reduce over time. However, many elements of council services are fixed and service costs will stay the same regardless of a drop in tonnage. For example, waste collection vehicles have a life span of at least seven years. Councils could be disadvantaged over time by a scheme that bases payment on tonnage rather than service cost. 

44. Do you agree or disagree that the Scheme Administrator should have the ability to apply incentive adjustments to local authority payments to drive performance and quality in the system?

We disagree.

Government should wait to see the combined impact of EPR, consistency and DRS before setting up an incentive scheme for councils. If the reforms are well designed they should provide all the levers for reducing waste and increasing recycling. An incentive system for councils operated through EPR would serve no purpose, except to add overhead costs to the scheme administrator.

45. Do you agree or disagree that local authorities should be given reasonable time and support to move to efficient and effective systems and improve their performance before incentive adjustments to payments are applied?

See our answer to question 44 above.

This question should be opened up to consider the combined impact of the proposals on EPR, consistency and the introduction of a DRS for drinks containers on local authority services.

Each council will be in a unique situation with contracts and infrastructure. What is a “reasonable time” needs to take into account the lead in time for renegotiations of long term contracts and development of infrastructure.

46. Should individual local authorities be guaranteed a minimum proportion of their waste management cost regardless of performance?

Yes they should have a guarantee. EPR is a system for making producers pay full net costs and this is a way of ensuring that the scheme delivers at least minimum funding to all councils.

47. Do you agree or disagree that there should be incentive adjustments or rewards to encourage local authorities to exceed their modelled recycling benchmarks?

In principle we support the principle of rewards. When applied carefully and with the agreement with all parties they can have a positive effect on recycling rates. Drawing on the experience of councils who have used incentive systems, whoever administers the incentive payments can expect this to be a complex process that requires support and understanding of the local context in order to succeed.

Defra propose that rewards to councils are based on recycling rates. We would like to see a broader approach that gives weight to environmental outcomes, rather than a narrow focus on recycling. This would support national and local commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Defra should consider whether a system of rewards based on carbon emissions would be better aligned with the UK’s net zero target.

We would need to be reassured about the robustness of the modelling and whether this truly reflects the potential of councils to do more.

If incentive payments are applied this should not remove funding from other councils. This would undermine the principle of payment for full net costs.

48. Do you agree or disagree that unallocated payments should be used to help local authorities meet their recycling performance benchmarks, and contribute to Extended Producer Responsibility outcomes through wider investment and innovation, where it provides value for money?

There should not be unallocated payments. If the Scheme administrator is collecting unallocated payments this would indicate a failure of the system.

49. Do you agree or disagree that residual payments should be calculated using modelled costs of efficient and effective systems based on the average composition of packaging waste within the residual stream?

We support the principle of using a modelled figure because of the challenging timeframe, and to avoid placing a large data collection burden on councils.

As noted above, we would like to understand the assumptions that have been used to estimate the costs of efficient and effective systems. 

50. Do you agree or disagree that a disposal authority within a two-tier authority area (England only) should receive the disposal element of the residual waste payment directly?

We support the principle that payment should be made to the tier of local government incurring the cost.

The system should be flexible enough to allow two tier areas to negotiate a different arrangement if they wish to.

Payments for managing packaging waste from businesses

Key points

  • We agree that businesses should do more to support recycling efforts.
  • The availability of data is poor and waste companies do not provide statistics and performance information in the same way as local authorities. It is therefore difficult to comment on whether the proposed timetable is achievable.
  • Councils will be affected by these measures as they have office space and other premises that will come under the new mandatory obligations. We expect any new requirements to be fully funded by either EPR or new burdens.
  • Many councils provide waste collection services to local businesses. We encourage Defra to draw on their expertise in developing these proposals. Councils are key to providing services to businesses that are not profitable for commercial waste operators, for example community centres and businesses in rural and less populated areas.

51. Do you agree or disagree that there remains a strong rationale for making producers responsible for the costs of managing packaging waste produced by businesses?

We support this principle.

52. Do you agree or disagree that all commercial and industrial packaging should be in scope of the producer payment requirements except where a producer has the necessary evidence that they have paid for its management directly?

We support this principle.

We do not have enough information to be able to answer the remaining questions on business waste.

Payments for managing packaging waste: data and reporting requirements

Key messages:

  • The consultation document notes that WRAP has been working with local authorities to test data capture tools and additional questions in the Waste Data Flow reporting system[5]. This exercise has shown that there is a gap in the data on flats and household waste and recycling centres. Councils tell us that recycling from flats is characterised by high levels of contamination, which results in lower recycling rates.
  • Failure to address the data gaps on flats and household waste and recycling centres will create a payment system that is flawed and unfair.

56. Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to introduce a sampling regime for packaging as an amendment to the MF Regulations in England, Wales and Scotland and incorporation into new or existing regulations in Northern Ireland?

We broadly support this proposal but welcome further detail on the design of the sampling regime. Councils have an interest in making sure this is fair and transparent to all parties and must be involved in the development of the regime.

Any additional costs arising from the new regime should be met through EPR and not passed back to councils.

57. Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to require all First Points of Consolidation to be responsible for sampling and reporting in accordance with a new packaging waste sampling and reporting regime?

As above we support the principle but the design of this proposal needs to take into account all the variety of facilities operated by councils. Local government will need to be involved in the design of this process.

 58. Do you agree or disagree that the existing MF Regulations’ de-minimis threshold of facilities that receive 1000 tonnes or more per annum of mixed waste material would need to be removed or changed to capture all First Points of Consolidation?

The LGA does not have enough information to answer this question. Individual councils will be able to comment on the implications of this proposals based on their individual circumstances.

59. Do you think the following list of materials and packaging formats should form the basis for a manual sampling protocol?

No. The list should be “futureproof” and include materials that are likely to come under the EPR regime, such as plastic films and flexibles and single use cups.

We should avoid a situation where EPR, DRS and consistency all require different protocols and sampling regimes. We encourage Defra to bring these strands together into one coherent package for councils and reprocessors.

60. Do you think it is feasible to implement more rigorous sampling arrangements within 6-12 months of the regulations being in place?

Yes, provided that there is enough notice and additional funding is provided where needed.

The LGA does not have enough information to be able to answer questions 60-65 on the technical process of measuring output quality and reprocessing protocols.

Payments for managing packaging waste: reporting and payment cycles

66. Do you agree or disagree that local authority payments should be made quarterly, on a financial year basis?

We support this approach. It should be kept under review and further consultation with councils should take place. Running some trials or pilots may help to ensure a smooth transition. 

67. Do you agree or disagree that household and business packaging waste management payments should be based on previous year’s data?

The consultation does not suggest any alternative approaches. In principle we support this approach and welcome further information on plans for implementation.

Chapter 9: litter payments

68. Do you agree or disagree that the costs of litter management should be borne by the producers of commonly littered items based on their prevalence in the litter waste stream as determined by a composition analysis which is described in option 2?

We support option 2. This would require regular analysis of the composition of litter and the addition cost of this process must be met by EPR payments.

69. In addition to local authorities, which of the following duty bodies do you agree should also receive full net cost payments for managing littered packaging?

In principle producers should pay other organisations with statutory duty to clear up litter. Public highways and entrance points to the transport network can be marred by large amounts of litter. EPR payments could be helpful with litter hot spots in the transport network. We support EPR litter payments to public agencies providing transport services. The litter costs for other duty bodies should be met through additional EPR funding.

We would like to understand more about the implementation of payments to other duty bodies.  We would expect this to be a complex exercise and the implementation costs need to be fully explained.

70. Do you agree or disagree that producers should contribute to the costs of litter prevention and management activities on other land?[6]

We agree, but the process for doing this must be fair and transparent. We do not agree that money for a “litter fund” for eligible bodies should be taken from payments to local authorities.

71. Do you agree or disagree that local authority litter payments should be linked to improved data reporting?

We support this as long as the costs of data reporting are met in full through EPR funding.

72. Do you agree or disagree that payments should be linked to standards of local cleanliness over time?

We agree in principle, but this will only be achievable if the EPR and DRS schemes are well designed and provide councils with sufficient resources.

Councils have raised concerns about the impact of external factors on their ability to maintain standards of cleanliness. An example of this is the high volume of litter generated during the COVID-19 pandemic with large numbers of people taking food and drink to green spaces and tourist areas.

Chapter 10: scheme administration and governance

73. Do you agree or disagree that the functions relating to the management of producer obligations in respect of household packaging waste and litter including the distribution of payments to local authorities are managed by a single organisation?

We support this approach. Councils must be involved in the setup of the scheme administrator and we need more information on the governance of the body.

74. Overall which governance and administrative option do you prefer?

We don’t have a strong view on either approach. As a result we will not be responding to questions 76 and 77 on the options.

75. How do you think in-year cost uncertainty to producers could be managed?

This question is best answered by the producers.

78. Do you agree or disagree with the timeline proposed for the appointment of the Scheme Administrator?

It looks highly ambitious. We would like to work with Defra to identify points in the process where local government will be involved.

79. If the Scheme Administrator is appointed in January 2023 as proposed, would it have sufficient time to mobilise in order to make payments to local authorities from October 2023?

This timescale is highly ambitious. This will only be possible if work starts now and is handed over the Scheme Administrator once they are in place.

80. Do you agree or disagree with the approval criteria proposed for compliance schemes?

The proposals do not explain the relationship between the Scheme administrator and local authorities.

81. Should Government consider introducing a Compliance Scheme Code of Practice and/or a ‘fit and proper person’ test?

The LGA does not have a view on this.

Reporting requirements

Key points:

  • We agree that the reform of Extended Producer Scheme must result in better transparency on what individual producers are contributing and how funded in used. The scheme administrator must be fully transparent on its own costs.
  • We encourage Government and producers to adopt these principles and would be happy to support the development of the reporting requirements.

We are not able to form a view on the options set out in Questions 82 and 83.

Chapter 11: reprocessors and exporters

The LGA is not able to offer a view on proposals aimed at reprocessors and exporters. In broad terms we support proposals designed to support effective regulation and transparency, particularly on waste exports. This is key to building public trust in the recycling system.

Chapter 12: compliance and enforcement

92. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed approach to regulating the packaging Extended Producer Responsibility system?

We support the broad approach of regulation falling to the Environmental Regulator. We agree that the environmental regulator should not be responsible for monitoring of and enforcement against local authorities under EPR. [7]

93. Do you have further suggestions on what environmental regulators should include in their monitoring and inspection plans that they do not at present?

Not at present but we would be happy to be involved in discussions.

94.  In principle, what are your views if the regulator fees and charges were used for enforcement?

This would be in line with the “polluter pays” principle. The costs of new regulatory burdens must be fully funded. Failure to provide robust regulation will undermine confidence in the system. 

95. Would you prefer to see an instant monetary penalty for a non-compliance, or another sanction as listed below, such as prosecution?

No comment on this.

Chapter on implementation timeline

96. Do you agree or disagree with the activities that the Scheme Administrator would need to undertake in order to make initial payments to local authorities in 2023 (as described above under Phase 1)?

The timetable indicates that the Scheme Administrator will be set up in 2023 at the earliest, and will begin to make payments to councils in the same year. This is very ambitious and we encourage Defra to work with us on a contingency plan.

For payments to be made in 2023 the planning process must begin now and significant effort will be required from all parties ahead of 2023 in collecting data and building new relationships.

97. Do you think a phased approach to the implementation of packaging Extended Producer Responsibility, starting in 2023 is feasible and practical?

98. Do you prefer a phased approach to implementing Extended Producer Responsibility starting in 2023 with partial recovery of the costs of managing packaging waste from households or later implementation, which could enable full cost recovery for household packaging waste from the start?

We would like EPR payments to councils to start as soon as possible but we have concerns about the timetable and the number of decisions that are delegated to the Scheme Administrator. We would be happy to work with Government to revise and strengthen the implementation plan for a phased implementation.

We would also be happy to work on alternative options, including making the first interim payment directly to councils. This would provide certainty to councils and would guarantee a payment if the development of the Scheme Administrator is delayed.

99. Of the options presented for reporting of packaging data for 2022 which do you prefer?

Obligated producers should report on all packaging as set out in option 2.

100. Are there other datasets required to be reported by producers in order for the Scheme Administrator to determine the costs to be paid by them in 2023?

We are not able to answer this question but it must be properly thought through with experts from local government. We recommend that datasets are rigorously tested with key stakeholders including local government.

Annex 1 Questions: Refillable/reusable packaging

Key points:

  • We welcome the intention to support refill and reuse through the EPR scheme. However, we are concerned that the role of the EPR scheme administration is being extended to make value judgements on the type of schemes that should be funded.
  • These proposals need further thought and the LGA would be happy to contribute to further discussions.

Footnotes

[1] European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC

[2] European Commission report: Development of Guidance on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Final Report 2014

[3] https://consult.defra.gov.uk/extended-producer-responsibility/extended-producer-responsibility-for-packaging/supporting_documents/23.03.21%20EPR%20Consultation.pdf

[4] Page 23 Defra consultation document

[5] Paragraph 8.121 on page 12

[6] Paragraph 9.26

[7] Paragraph 12.10