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UK Packaging Reform: What the Waste Sector Needs

Over the past few years, the need to measure and report your company's environmental and social footprint has grown significantly. Around the world, environmental packaging regulation is increasing fast and for businesses trading across borders, knowing where to start can be a minefield.

The webinar, attended by over 200, was hosted by Suez. Tracy was joined by fellow panellists Dr Adam Read, Chief External Affairs and Sustainability Officer from SUEZ; Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead from SUEZ; Vicki Burrell, Vice Chairperson from LARAC and Dr Anna Willetts, Partner at Gunnercooke.

Last year saw the start of a number of collection and packaging reforms being implemented with the Plastic Packaging Tax kicking off in April. The varying policy measures are beginning to have a direct impact on packaging producers, brands and the waste sector that collects and recycles the packaging they use.

More than half of the audience indicated that they would welcome increased government policy, as long as it came with explicit policy instructions

To try to make sense of the reforms and how they could affect the packaging industry, Tracy has outlined her six key takeaways we hope you find helpful.

1: A number of policies are being developed and progressed in the UK

– Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
– Deposit Return Schemes (DRS)
– Single Use Plastic (SUP) bans
– Consistent Collections

The overall goal is to reduce waste and increase recycling, deliver financial incentives for producers to reduce packaging and make it easier for consumers and/or businesses to separate recyclable waste.

2: More than half of the audience would welcome more policy

More than half of the webinar audience indicated that they would welcome increased government policy if it came with more explicit policy instructions and resulted in more timely interventions to some of the problem areas. When policy is introduced, it often lacks critical detail about implementation, which can cause delays in businesses taking action. It’s important to stay updated and be clear on what impacts your business, how and when.

3: Local authorities and businesses are unprepared for the new policies

It’s apparent that many local authorities and businesses are neither sufficiently informed or prepared for the forthcoming policies, and therefore haven’t yet taken the required steps to ensure compliance. Neither are they adequately funded or resourced to be able to implement the policy proposals in the timeframes required. It’s really important that your business assesses additional resource needs and operational investments needed to meet the new regulations.

The panel want an approach that focuses less on recycling better, and more on extracting and using fewer resources

4: More collaboration is necessary across every sector

Not only did the panel recognise more collaboration is necessary across every sector, especially for reuse and refill, but so too do a reasonable percentage of the audience. 17% believed that more collaboration between value chain partners is needed to help resolve the issues and implement the right on the ground systems and services to meet the targets and regulation set out.

If you’re looking to invest in infrastructure or systems, you can guarantee others further up or down the packaging lifecycle will be too. You might not need a large fund or big commitment, you can start small, be agile and scale. The important thing is to collaborate with others outside of your organisation.

5: A less technical, more strategic, holistic approach to policy change is needed

The panel agreed that a less technical, more strategic, holistic approach to policy change was needed. They would like to see an approach that focuses less on recycling better, and more on extracting and using fewer resources. If you use less material per year as a packaging footprint you’ll reduce compliance fees, risk and your impact on the planet.

6: A joined-up approach, incorporating green skills and education as well as policy, is needed

The need for a different approach and more joined-up thinking applies as much to green skills and education as it does to policy. It’s imperative that these factors are considered alongside carbon as part of any Packaging Strategy or roadmap to ensure brands and producers work to comply with mandatory carbon targets.

Tracy is invited to speak at many events and webinars. Check out Root on LinkedIn to find out when and where.

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