Industry raises alarm over packaging recovery targets

The argument between commercial interests affected by the Packaging Waste Regulations and the Government over where target levels should be set, received renewed impetus last month with a call by leading compliance group, Valpak, for no increase in UK recovery targets next year.

Valpak argued that the Government should not increase the UK recovery targets for obligated companies next year without taking a number of urgent steps. Pointing out that the UK’s packaging regulations had set down interim targets each year since 1998 in order to enable the UK to get from its low starting point (around 30% recovery) to the 50% recovery required by the European Union in 2001, Valpak had expected the target for January to December 2001 to be set at 52%. However, the organisation believes hat the Government might be tempted to raise the targets above the current level “to take up the slack in the system.”

John Turner, Chief Executive of Valpak, said: “The Government has indicated that a recovery target approaching 60% is being considered for next year. Clearly, targets must be demanding but they also need to be achievable. To build excessive correction for potential shortfall at this late stage is not the best way forward. Raising targets to this level will probably lead to severe difficulties for many obligated producers.”

Mr Turner proposed that the most equitable decision the Government could make at this late stage would be to keep the 52% recovery target and to put in place a programme of work to ensure all aspects of the current system were working efficiently.

Data analysed

Valpak’s analysis of its own data suggests that the figures published by the Government on the packaging flow and recovery levels needs to be modified. Valpak says that the Government now believes that the amount of packaging waste produced by non-obligated businesses is almost three times higher than expected. For obligated businesses to be expected to pay the cost of picking up this packaging waste by taking an extra obligation is clearly unfair.

Valpak says that the hard reality is that if UK targets increase from 52% to approaching 60% in 2001, registered businesses will have to recover a further 600,000 tonnes over and above the additional 600,000 tonnes already required to meet the 52% target – an increase of 1.2 million tonnes, or 33% in one year.

Valpak says that it is now a matter or urgency that the Government and industry agree a well-managed programme with a clear strategy to: revise the current analysis of packaging flows and recovery levels; dramatically expand the current programme of legislative enforcement and detection of free riders; extend the producer responsibility threshold to include businesses with turnovers of between £1-2 million, if necessary; and find a simplified method of involving small businesses, such as a fixed fee.

A way forward would be to establish an expert management group drawn from industry, government, and the reprocessing and collection sectors to review and monitor the current approach.

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