CIWM Presidential report: Different EU approaches to packaging waste

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Cover of report (Source: CIWM)

St Peters Gardens, UK — With the future role and scope of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) under the spotlight thanks to the circular economy agenda, CIWM has published its latest Presidential Report 2015/16, entitled ‘Packaging waste recovery – a European comparison’.

This comparative study was commissioned to inform the debate by providing a snapshot of four different current approaches to packaging across Europe. In assessing the scope, cost and impact of these schemes, the study has highlighted a number of considerations which could be factored into the UK’s thinking in the event of a fundamental review of the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.

Less well in collection and reprocessing

“Whether waste and resource management policy in the future is developed within a European, UK-wide or national context, it is clear that EPR will be an important part of the mix. The current uncertainty as a result of the vote to leave the EU should not deter us from asking what this type of approach can, and should be seeking to, achieve and whether our existing legislation is fit for purpose. This study highlights some of the issues that need to be taken into consideration and will help to inform future thinking,” says CIWM President Professor Jim Baird.

While the UK Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system has delivered lowest cost compliance for producers, the report suggests that, in comparison to the other systems assessed, it is performing less well in terms of supporting the collection of household packaging waste and the development of domestic reprocessing capacity. These are factors that will need to be considered if the UK opts to follow Europe in pursuing higher levels of household waste recycling in the future.

Competition is important

The report confirms that competition is important in controlling the cost burden on producers and CIWM believes more work will be needed to understand the relationship between costs and competition if the ‘full cost recovery’ proposal in the EU Circular Economy package were to be followed. In addition, while household collection is better supported by the schemes in Germany and Ireland, the relationship between revenue and infrastructure development is far less clear. This highlights the need for both more transparency and access to data across Europe and the need for further investigation to establish whether the unpredictability of the PRN system genuinely disincentivises investment in domestic recovery infrastructure in the UK.

Finally, while there are divergent views across the UK on deposit and return schemes, these are now established in other European countries, with Denmark relying solely on this mechanism to deliver its obligations. In the context of using EPR approached more widely, the potential of this type of model should be explored further.

The full report on „Packaging waste recovery – a European comparison“ can be found under ciwm-journal.co.uk.

Source: Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)