Modulated fees research project launched

A joint project has been launched by government and three industry bodies to help co-design a “key part of the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system”.

The project is backed by the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It will look at how producers’ fees for packaging could be used to “financially incentivise greater use of recyclable packaging”, and what higher charges could apply to producers who do not use recyclable packaging. There will be a focus on “modulated fees” – costs linked to the different types of packaging and their complexity.

In a statement, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said they will help design the options, and the future EPR Scheme Administrator “may decide to adopt them when it is appointed in due course”.

The work comes as the government comes under pressure in terms of preparing for the new system which is scheduled for 2023 but is very dependent on securing good data to establish the payout criteria for local authorities.

Full costs

The project will aim to develop an “off the shelf” solution for a system of EPR modulated fees by July 2021. Modulated fees will be a core part of the new system which will see producers pay councils the full costs of the collection and recycling of packaging waste unlike the current PRN system which is estimated to cover about 10% of the costs.

Modulated fees will link in to payments for the recycling of materials because more complex products are likely to cost more to recycle and perhaps also to collect. Consequently, it is expected that if fees are higher for packaging products which are more costly to recycle, this will encourage producers to change the packaging to reduce costs.

Resources charity, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is supporting the partners over the course of the project “with capacity and expertise, and to help organise extensive stakeholder engagement over the three phases of the project”.

‘Key reforms’

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “We must boost our recycling performance and one of the vital ways to do that is through Extended Producer Responsibility. This is one of the key waste reforms within our landmark Environment Bill, which will ensure that we continue to go further and faster to recycle more of our waste and reduce the resources that we use.

“This UK-wide project is an important step in delivering a world-leading system, and I welcome this new joined-up initiative between the UK government, devolved administrations and the UK packaging sector.”

Stages

The seven project partners will take forward three key phases of work with packaging stakeholders, with the first two completed by April 2021.

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