The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has recommend that firms producing plastic packaging should pay more for the waste created, as well as introducing a deposit return scheme and charges for single-use plastics.
Lawmakers said they want suppliers of hard-to-recycle complex plastics to be charged most, and firms using simple easy-to-recycle packages to pay least.
The report said in order to make packaging producers more responsible for the type of products they are putting on the market, the Government should adapt the producer responsibility compliance fee structure that stimulates the use of recycled plastic, rewards design for recyclability, and increases costs for packaging that is difficult to recycle or reuse.
In the report MPs called for the “polluter pays” principle to be applied to companies to increase their contribution to recycling plastic waste. This would effectively make supermarkets and drinks firms pay far more for the plastic packaging they produce.
The report said supermarkets and beverage firms pay one of the lowest contributions towards its recycling of any country in Europe under the Producer Responsibility Obligations – with taxpayers paying 90% of recycling costs.
“We took account of the polluter pays principle; that those who produce pollution should bear the cost of managing it,” MPs said. “The Producer Responsibility Obligations do not make producers financially responsible for the packaging they are putting on the market.
“This would incentivise producers to use more sustainable packaging, whilst reducing the costs on taxpayers. Additionally we recommend that the Government lower the de minimis packaging handling threshold from 50 tonnes to 1 tonne. This would ensure that all businesses who handle a significant amount of packaging are obligated to recycle,” said the report.
EAC Chair Mary Creagh MP said the current levy on plastics producers only raised a fraction of the cost of dealing with plastic waste.
“Packaging producers don’t currently have to bear the full financial burden of recycling their packaging,” she said. “By reforming charges, the government can ensure that producers and retailers will have financial incentives to design packaging that is easily recyclable – or face higher compliance costs.”
The committee also proposed a minimum 50% recycled plastic content in plastic bottles to stimulate the recycled plastics market.
The Recycling Association said it strongly supported rules prompting packaging firms to simplify packaging and use fewer different types of plastics.
Martin Kersh, executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association, welcomed the report and calls for investment in recycling infrastructure.
“We fully endorse the report’s call for an additional fund that will increase recycling collections, strengthen communication to the public, improve the recyclability of packaging and increase the demand for recycled content. These are developments which are receiving increasing support from brands and retailers as well as the packaging sector.”
He added: “We also welcome the call for full transparency with regard to how the PRN funds are allocated so that all PRN funding is used to support better infrastructures for recycling including on-the-go, effective and consistent public communication and vital design and innovation progress.”
David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez Recycling and Recovery UK said: “The committee crucially recognises that current producer responsibility systems are ineffective at reducing the burden of packaging waste on society and we support the idea of incentivising manufacturers who use more recyclable material, while penalising those who don’t. At the moment, the opposite is almost true. Market forces would quickly see consumers switch to more sustainable products as a result.”