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Packaging consultations 2019 & New EU Directives

The consultation feedback published was disappointing to say the least and generally summarised the responses and not the Government’s preferred positions. We have summarised over 400 pages of text to only 4 pages. We have tried to interpret the information provided with some speculation about what we think will happen. Please read the original documents to remove any ambiguity that our interpretation may create.

If you did not have the opportunity to contribute to the consultations, you may be pleased to know that the digital templates were not very user friendly and probably reduced the number of responses significantly.


Consultation on change to carrier bag tax (England only)

Although this consultation closed in February, there is still no feedback (29/7/19).

We expect the new rules to apply a 10p levy to all plastic single use carrier bags supplied in England, ending the exemption for smaller businesses.

In Scotland & Wales, it will remain 5p and apply to all plastic and paper single use carrier bags and some other materials. In Northern Ireland, the charge of 5p continues to apply to all carrier bags with a retail price below 20p.

Click here to go to the consultation web page.


Tax on plastic packaging (UK wide)

In March 2018, a consultation from HMRC looking at single use plastics received 162,000 responses. The consultation in February 2019 proposes to tax plastic packaging. This received only 436 responses, perhaps because it was not easy to complete.

In the UK we use over 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging per year. For most businesses, it is cheaper to use new plastic than to use recycled and most plastic waste currently becomes waste after it has been used only once.

The Government is looking to apply a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content from April 2022. This will apply to all plastic packaging made in the UK or imported that does not contain at least 30% recycled content. The Government acknowledges that excluding filled plastic packaging could encourage larger businesses to take manufacturing outside the UK to avoid the tax and will consider changing this to include all imported plastic packaging.

As far as we can tell, the whole concept of ‘recycled content’ will be based on trust and suppliers will have to inform their customers of the recycled content in plastic packaging supplied. The proposals would allow ‘recycled content’ to include non-packaging plastics and plastics from outside the UK, along with process waste. Where the supplier is outside the UK it will be difficult to know whether there is any truth to declarations given. It is impossible to tell what recycled content is in most polymers after they have been blended. It is not clear whether companies will be able to self-certify their declarations or if they will have to have third party audits to corroborate the declarations.

The rate is proposed to be a fixed rate per tonne of plastic packaging. The current proposal is to apply the tax at point of production because this is close to the point where recycled content would be added as most manufacturers of plastics know whether the intended use is / is not packaging. It also proposes that the tax should be joint / several to discourage avoidance.

The consultation proposes that only the business that pays the tax should be allowed to reclaim it for exports. Where plastic packaging is exported by the manufacturer, this will be easy. Where the plastic is exported by another party there may be difficulties feeding that information back down the supply chain. This is silly; if the tax were to be passed down in a similar way to VAT, it would be transparent how much tax had been paid further down the supply chain.  

It is unclear whether there will be a de-minimus threshold to exclude small businesses or how transparency will be achieved so that businesses down the supply chain will know and be confident about the level of recycled content in packaging that they buy.

There is a huge potential for fraud in this legislation, particularly from material imported.

Click here to go to the consultation web page.


Consultation on the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme in the UK (England, Wales & NI)

In the UK we use about 14,000,000,000 plastic drinks bottles (that’s 14 billion!), 5,000,000,000 glass bottles and 9,000,000 cans each year.

The consultation in February 2019 received 1080 responses directly and 207,000 responses from Greenpeace and MCS campaigns.

Scotland is ahead of the rest of the UK and their proposals are for a deposit of 20p/container for all drinks containers between 50ml and 3 litres. It is likely that the rest of the UK will eventually adopt a very similar scheme otherwise there will be incentives for fraud.

Both the consultations for Scotland and the rest of the UK are proposing to crush all bottles returned to be recycled and not to be reused which is a fundamental missed opportunity to reduce environmental impact of our consumption

A majority of respondents were in favour of including Tetrapaks and foil pouches.

Containers for milk may be excluded from the scheme.

Two thirds of respondents felt that disposable single use cups should be included. Manufacturers and others in the trade objected to the inclusion of disposable single use cups because of the logistical challenges it would create.

Over two thirds of respondents favoured an ‘all-in’ approach. It is likely that the scheme will be an ‘all-in’ affair with drinks bottles up to 3 litres, to fall in line with Scottish proposals.

Click here to go to the consultation web page.


Consultation on reforming packaging producer responsibility (UK Wide)

This consultation was looking at options to reform packaging producer responsibility to include not only a subsidy to support the cost of recycling as we currently have but also to subsidise the cost of collecting and sorting domestic waste packaging. The consultation proposes that this will be on the basis of the full net cost.

There is more support for modulated fees (charging more for materials that are difficult to recycle) than other options. We may move from multiple points of compliance (manufacturer / convertor / pack&filler / seller) to a single point of compliance, perhaps with the brand owner. There is discussion about whether to reduce or remove the current de-minimus with a particular desire to make take-away and on-line businesses take part in the new system.

There was no consensus in this consultation about whether disposable cups should be dealt with here or as part of a Deposit Return Scheme.

There is much support for mandatory labelling about recycleability of packaging which may also be more effective if we have a ‘list of recyclable materials’ as part of the modulated fees proposal.

It is likely that recycling and recovery targets will continue to rise in the legislation with support for a ‘closed loop target’ for a proportion of all packaging materials to be returned to packaging applications, although the modulated fees proposal would also achieve the same thing.

The Government intends to proceed with another consultation in 2020, implementing a new regime in 2023. They are looking at option 1 (a model similar to the current model) or option 2 (a single not-for-profit scheme), or a hybrid of these two.

These will be enabled by the new Environment Bill that is currently doing the rounds.

Click here to go to the consultation web page.


Consultation on consistency in household recycling (England only)

This consultation was seeking to obtain feedback about setting minimum standards for waste and recycling collections in England. It included questions about identifying packaging that can / cannot be easily recycled, creating a list of easy / difficult to recycle materials that could be subject to tax or surcharges in the future. It also considered whether there should be standardisation of the colours of waste and recycling bins.

The consultation feedback is split into two parts – consumer / householders feedback and others. There were 1182 responses from householders and 531 responses from businesses and other organisations. 45% of the business and others were local authorities, 8% charities / social enterprises, 8% businesses, 7% business and trade associations, 5% manufacturers.

Over 95% agreed that local authorities should be required to collect a core set of materials for recycling. Over 90% felt that local authorities should be able to collect the core set of materials.

Over 90% of respondents felt that the list should include

  • Glass bottles and containers,
  • Paper and card,
  • Plastic bottles,
  • Plastic pots tubs and trays and
  • Aluminium / steel tins / cans

Over 60% of business respondents (84% for householders) also felt that food and drink cartons should be included.

Only 37% of business respondents (73% of householders) felt that plastic bags and film should be collected.

72% of business respondents (84% of householders) want to see weekly food waste collections.

I decided that almost nobody would still be reading so I stopped. If you really need the grim details, please click here to go to the consultation web page.


Single Use Plastics Directive

The EU Single Use Plastics Directive has been adopted.

  • New single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds will be banned by 2021.
  • OXO-degradable plastics are to be phased out (because they are designed to break down into micro plastics that marine life feed on)
  • Confusingly, plastic cups and takeaway containers will be allowed because they are not commonly found on beaches but targets will be set to significantly reduce their use / consumption.
  • Plastic drinks bottles up to 3 litres will only be allowed if the lid remains attached. And plastic bottles are to have at least 25% recycled content by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
  • Wet wipes (and other sanitary products), tobacco filters and plastic drinks cups are to be clearly marked reminding users about safe disposal and the dangers of littering.
  • Incentives to discourage dumping of plastic fishing gear are to be increased through extended producer responsibility schemes.

Member states shall ensure that 90% of single use plastics is collected to be recycled by 2029 through deposit schemes or extended producer responsibility schemes.

Consumers shall be made aware of and incentivised to act more responsibly to reduce litter from single use plastics.


single use plastics


These requirements are largely reflected in the consultations we reviewed above.

If you just can’t get enough of this, please follow this link to read more…


Market surveillance and compliance of products Regulations (EU) 2019/1020

This gem almost escaped… This regulation will require operators (like Amazon and ebay) to comply with EU directives including the packaging directive, WEEE directive and 17 others.

If you want to know more or think you may be affected, please follow this link.

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