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Landmark reforms to boost recycling and fight plastic pollution

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Reforms to boost recycling, tackle plastic pollution and reduce litter have taken a step forward as ministers from across the UK have unveiled the latest proposals to overhaul the waste and resources sector. Powers in the Government’s landmark Environment Bill could be used to make manufacturers more responsible for the packaging they produce and incentivise consumers to recycle more.

This includes:

A Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers: consumers will be incentivised to take their empty drinks containers to return points hosted by retailers. Every year across the UK, consumers go through an estimated 14 billion plastic drinks bottles, nine billion drinks cans and five billion glass bottles. The scheme would cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a separate scheme already under development in Scotland.

Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging: manufacturers will pay the full costs of managing and recycling their packaging waste, with higher fees being levied if packaging is harder to reuse or recycle. In 2019, approximately 11.7 million tonnes of packaging was placed on the UK market. The scheme is being developed on a UK-wide basis.

The third of our major reforms, will see the introduction of consistent recycling collections for all households and businesses in England.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Tackling plastic pollution lies at the heart of our efforts, and we have already taken steps to ban microbeads, cut supermarket sales of single-use plastic bags by 95% and prohibit the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds”.

“These new changes will further ensure that more of what we consume is recycled and reused. They will stimulate the creation of alternatives to single-use plastics and establish consistent rules to help people recycle more easily across the country”.

The packaging changes are being developed on a UK-wide basis, while the Deposit Return Scheme will cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A separate scheme is already under way in Scotland, and administrations will work to ensure compatibility between the schemes.

Scotland’s Environment and Climate Change Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said:

“The Extended Producer Responsibility scheme will help encourage more sustainable packaging design, promote reuse and recycling, and require producers to be part of the solution to dealing with materials at the end of their life”.

“It is all part of a truly circular economy, one which presents enormous economic opportunities for Scotland and will help deliver our green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

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