Posted on 23/07/2018 in category Legislation

The United Kingdom's National Audit Office publishes report on the UK's "Packaging Recycling Obligations"

The National Audit Office (NAO) scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. This high-quality report on the UK's "Packaging Recycling Obligations" gives much insight into the effectiveness, cost and oversight of the special Extended Producer Responsibility system by which it complies with obligations from the EU's Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive.

The report provides some statistics. Of the 11 million tonnes of packaging waste from 2017 the amount of waste sent abroad to countries including China, Turkey, Malaysia and Poland accounted for half of the packaging reported as recycled. Never the less the UK exceeded its recycling target by 9%, achieving a rate of 64% packaging recycled. Additionally, the report noted the Environment Agency does not have strong enough controls to prevent the system subsidising exports of contaminated or poor-quality material. With a risk that some is not recycled under equivalent standards to the UK, and is instead sent to landfill or contributes to pollution.

The NAO report highlights that costs to business are low compared with schemes in other countries because UK taxpayers pay most of the costs of collecting packaging waste. The cost to UK businesses was some 13 euros per tonne recycled, compared with costs to business of more than 48 euros per tonne in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, packaging schemes in these countries require companies to fully fund collections of household packaging waste. UK businesses paid only £73 million towards the cost of recycling their packaging through the system in 2017, whilst it was estimated that English local authorities spent £700 million (gross) on collecting and sorting packaging waste in 2017.

The report adds to the understanding of how such an Extended Producer Responsibility operates and will be most useful also to other countries considering introducing Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for various end-of-life goods