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Saving packaging is a sensible aim – but the detail needs to be right

Credit: Adobe

Mineral Products Association

3 min read Partner content

Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging is the right thing to do. But, we need more time to get it right.

Everything we consume comes in packaging, which has an environmental impact, and many of us are keen to reduce the amount of waste generated through the packaging of products we consume. The Government’s policy of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging has a sound rational basis of incentivising producers of packaging to work to minimise how much packaging with their branding on goes to residual waste, ending up in either landfill or incineration.

But while we have all received excessive packaging for consumer items, there are lots of products where packaging is essential. A great example is bagged cement. Cement is a highly alkaline product that needs to be handled with care. There is ongoing work to reduce the material impact of our packaging, with recycled material used in producing the packaging and innovation underway to improve further.

Recycling is also a complex issue for products where packaging is not the main environmental concern. Making cement is currently a carbon-intensive process, although the industry is working hard to deliver the roadmap to beyond net zero, so the environmental benefit of reducing packaging waste needs to be set against the potential impact of inadequately protecting the product and leading to more product waste.

Nonetheless, the mineral products industry supports the principle of the Government’s EPR policy. It is reasonable for companies to be required to collect data on recyclability of waste, and measure how much of it fails to be recycled. But the scheme needs to be introduced in a realistic timeframe that recognises the complexity of implementing EPR in our industry and many others, not simply hurried through. That’s why our industry is calling for a delay to the EPR policy.

Implementation of EPR has fallen behind schedule as decisions drifted on appointing a scheme administrator, and then on administrative setup. This has left businesses with inadequate time to prepare as deadlines loom for reporting and paying charges. Without details of what will be required for reporting and how much will be charged, it is impossible for businesses to prepare properly, or to devote their attention to reducing packaging going to waste. This means that the policy as it stands, if hurried through on the current timetable, is likely to only generate cost, bureaucracy and frustration, with little environmental benefit to show.

MPA is calling for a delay of at least a month for reporting data, and until 2025 for charging to start. This will allow the Government time to properly set up the scheme, and businesses time to prepare and ensure that EPR actually delivers reductions in packaging waste, especially for complex products like cement. EPR for packaging is a sensible approach in theory, but it has proved hard to deliver. Government should not be ashamed of taking the time to get it right.

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