Producer responsibility under the spotlight

The increasing obligation on manufacturers and retailers to pick up the bill for the waste produced by the goods they sell came under the spotlight at an event for waste professionals in London this week.

The London Remade networking meeting on producer responsibility examined how the polluter pays principle is filtering through to issues surrounding waste, with ever increasing layers of legislation seeking to encourage companies to tackle waste at its source.

Speakers looked at how European directives such as WEEE and REACH are shaping industry and how evolving regulation is likely to put the onus for waste management on those who produce it.

Elizabeth Shepherd, partner at Eversheds LLP, gave a whistle stop tour of the legal drivers for producer responsibility, noting how waste was not the only area where companies would be incurring costs for their environmental impact.

Valpak’s Adrian Hawkes described how the UK has implemented EU directives on producer responsibility and pointed out that while the country has a habit of being slow on the uptake, the solutions it has come up with are often more effective and cheaper than those used elsewhere.

“The UK has often been a bit slow off the mark in implementing producer responsibility and perhaps coming from a lower level of recycling,” he said.

“But over a period of time it’s often ended up with solutions which have considerable benefits, particularly for industry.”

Debbie Hitchen, LRS, gave an overview of how Canada’s provinces were each taking a different tack on producer responsibility and how the issues they faced differed from those in the UK.

Low population density and long distances present particular obstacles in some areas and a lack of a national waste management plan has led to interesting variance in tactics across the country’s regions.

Mike Barry, Marks & Spencer’s head of sustainability, described how one company was trying to overhaul its business model to address its environmental and social impacts.

He stressed that sustainable business was not about increasing costs, arguing that while there are up front costs it actually saves a company money in the long run.

“Doing the right thing makes business sense,” he said.

Sam Bond

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