Environment Bill reforms to boost recycling and tackle plastic pollution under consultation

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The government has launched two new consultations on reforms that could be introduced in the upcoming Environment Bill.

Firstly, the government is seeking views on proposals to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Across the UK, consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, nine billion drinks cans and five billion glass bottles a year.

Introduction of a deposit scheme seeks to help change consumer behaviour to encourage higher levels of recycling.

In 2019, Defra launched the consultation on Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, in conjunction with the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, which was met with support for the scheme.

Government committed to continuing to develop proposals and stated that it was minded to implement a scheme from 2023, subject to further evidence and analysis on the costs and benefits of such a scheme.

Government has stated to remains committed to delivering on its commitments to introduce a deposit return scheme while also recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy and society in ‘unimaginable’ ways, with ‘many people reassessing their values, decisions and priorities in both the immediate and longer term.’

On this basis, the second consultation offers a chance to explore further what the continued appetite is for a deposit return scheme in a ‘post-COVID’ context.

The second consultation will also inform how a future scheme can be designed in the best and most coherent way possible to deliver on the objectives set out for introducing such a policy.

With this in mind, Defra has reported that a realistic timeline for implementation of a deposit return scheme has had to be reassessed, ensuring that sufficient time is given for a successful roll-out of the scheme.

Therefore, a deposit return scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is anticipated to be introduced in late 2024 at the earliest.

In this consultation, views are sought on:

  • How a deposit return scheme will operate
  • Scheme scope and design
  • Implementation timelines
  • Scheme enforcement

The second consultation around the new powers of the Environment Bill, which is expected to become a law later this year, is to introduce an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging.

The scheme would mean that packaging producers would pay the full cost of managing packaging once it becomes waste.

This seeks to encourage producers to use less packaging and use more recyclable materials, reducing the amount of hard-to-recycle packaging placed on the market.

Both of these consultations are accepting responses until 11.45pm on 4th of June 2021.

The Introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme and Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging-consultations can be found from the Defra website.