UK misses 2001 EC target for packaging recovery

Against expectations in government and the waste industry, the UK has failed to meet the 2001 EC target for packaging waste recovery of 50%, recovering 48% during the year.

This is equivalent to a shortfall of under 200,000 tonnes out of a total packaging flow of 9.3 million tonnes. The announcement, made in a written answer in Parliament, by Environment Minister Michael Meacher comes a month after he expressed his anger at the significantly poor performance of Wastepack, one of the major packaging compliance schemes.

Wastepack recovered only 42% of its 2001 obligation for a total recovery of 415 000 tonnes packaging waste, in a scheme registered with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). Although, the minister reported that other compliance schemes and most individually-registered businesses obligated under the regulations had produced a significant increase in the UK’s packaging waste recycling performance, he said he would be considering whether a review of the UK’s packaging compliance scheme was necessary.

Meanwhile, SEPA has decided not the cancel the registration of the Wastepack scheme, but Scottish ministers are currently reviewing the situation.

The minister suggested that the UK’s performance was still commendable overall by referring to the country’s recent progress in boosting recovery rates from 33% in 1998. He compared this with the performance of other member states that had begun focusing on packaging waste recovery/recycling in the early 1990s. The Minister noted that a number of them have achieved much higher recovery/ recycling rates while others remain close to or just above the UK rate.

The 2002 UK packaging targets set under Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations, announced in March, are 59% recovery and 19% material-specific recycling (see related story). These replace the 2001 targets of 56% recovery and 18% material-specific recycling. However, they are lower than the 61% level originally proposed by the government. A new DEFRA consultation is due this year on targets for 2003 and 2004.

At the same time, in The Netherlands, the Government has set a 90% target for companies to recycle their packaging under their Packaging Covenant II scheme, but are only getting 60% compliance, a spokesperson for the Dutch environment agency told edie. Guidelines are being introduced and the situation is being monitored to see which companies are falling through the net.

Although figures for last year are not available, the Government is confident that it will achieve a 65% target. However, recycling of paper and cardboard packaging has decreased, from 71% in 1999 to 67% in 2000. This is in spite of a 27% decrease in the quantity of packaging material introduced onto the market since 1986.

European targets under the packaging directive are currently under review following proposals by the European Commission to increase 2006 recovery percentages to a minimum of 60-75% (see related story). However, a better knowledge of the environmental impact of packaging, reuse and recycling is required before there is any fundamental revision of the current directive, according to MEP Dorett Corbey of the Netherlands.

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