Councils stand to gain by adopting 'Plan A' style partnerships

Somerset Waste Partnership's pioneering venture with Marks & Spencer to build greater transparency into producer responsibility is examined in the latest of our Resource Revolution thought leader video interview series.

Steve Read, managing director of Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP), talks about the benefits local authorities can leverage by working with the private sector to help companies recover and close the loop on packaging materials, as an alternative to the current packaging waste recovery note (PRN) system.

In 2010 SWP joined forces with Marks & Spencer (M&S) to improve kerbside collections and deliver closed loop recycling, a key part of the retailer's Plan A sustainability drive for its own packaging materials.

"We had a common interest in the way the PRN system isn't particularly transparent - [M&S] were paying into the system and weren't sure what they were getting for their money," Read said.

He added that by working directly with a local authority, M&S could demonstrate to its customers it was achieving better value with regards to its producer responsibility obligations while for Somerset Waste Partnership it meant a more extensive kerbside recycling scheme could be rolled out.

"As a result of that we are capturing around 12,500 tonnes of additional packaging material every year," Read said.

However he remained doubtful that such partnerships could be scaled up unless there was more openness and greater support from government and the wider industry.

"At the moment compliance through the PRN system is very, very cheap, very easy, and if people come along and try to make it more transparent in many ways, and more direct, there are some risks to [major brands] around that," he observed.

Sponsored by FCC Environment, the interview series comprises eight video interviews with stakeholders from all points in the circular economy. The fifth leader interview will follow next week, featuring the product design perspective with the RSA's Great Recovery Project.

View previous interviews:

The SME Leader perspective - Commercial Group

The Manufacturer perspective - Unilever

The Waste Contractor perspective - FCC Environment

The Designer perspective - Sophie Thomas

The Brand Leader perspective - Coca Cola Enterprises

The Retail perspective - John Lewis Partnership

The Thought Leader perspective - Peter Jones

The interviews incorporate learning from our recently-published White Paper 'Closing the loop: risk or reward'. You can download your copy here.


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