The government has delayed its extended producer responsibility scheme from 2024 to October 2025, citing concerns about the impact of inflation on households. The delay was met with a range of reactions from across the IEMA community. IEMA's Digital Journalist Tom Pashby reports.

It gives businesses more time to prepare, but adds uncertainty to the implementation date in part because a general election will have been held by 2025, so it will be a new government in power which will be able to choose whether to keep the scheme.

Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for Environmental Quality and Resilience, said: “We’re determined to transform the way we collect, recycle and reuse our waste materials so we eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050 in a way that works for households and consumers. That’s better for our environment.

“We are also listening to industry and ensuring our work to tackle inflation and to drive up recycling go hand in hand, to make sure our reforms will be a success.”

Emma Wilkinson AIEMA, regulatory affairs leader at Beyondly, responded to the news positively, and said: “The delay provides producers with the much-needed opportunity to prepare for EPR waste management fees, and the opportunity for government to carry out strong stakeholder engagement on delivering this aspect of EPR.

“We want a system that is robust, efficient, and successful at increasing recycling rates and accelerating us towards a circular economy, ultimately driving us towards decarbonisation. So, we encourage all stakeholders to seize this opportunity to ensure the best chance of success with EPR implementation.”

Vast volumes of waste still end up in landfill and incinerators, taking them out of material flows. Circular economy advocates argue that all materials should be kept within the economy for as long as possible.

Jackie McKellar AIEMA, co-founder of The Plastic Solution, said: “28 July was the first declared Plastic Overshoot Day. That is the point in the year when the amount of plastics produced has officially exceeded the global waste management capacity. The Environment Agency reported that short use plastic production is set to reach 159 million tonnes this year, which is 68.5 million tonnes more than the waste management systems can process safely in a year. This reflects the urgent requirement to adopt circular economy solutions and reuse business models to reduce both consumer and business plastic consumption.

“The delay in bringing forward the ERP policy stated by UK government ministers as a result of inflationary pressures on businesses reflects, in my opinion, the lack of engagement and determination to encourage and support businesses to bring about the change required to meet the stated commitment to CO2 emission reductions contributed to by plastic production.”

Meanwhile, Addie MacGregor, sustainability executive at ABHI – an IEMA corporate partner, said: “The health tech industry is heavily regulated, with patient safety at its core. Packaging is often a regulated part of a product and, as such, EPR requirements must be proportionate and achievable.

“Clear and reasonable timelines, and considerations for what is feasible by organisations, is vital, so that collectively we help work towards Net Zero ambitions.”

It has been notoriously difficult to address the significant material inefficiencies in consumer economies such as the UK due to a lack of coordination between government, the private sector, recycling companies, local authorities, and households.

Dr. Adam Read, chief external affairs and sustainability officer for SUEZ Recycling & Recovery UK – an IEMA corporate partner, said: “Although expected, we’re still disappointed by this delay. Years of inaction are creating real challenges for our sector - inhibiting us from taking the next step to invest in vital services and infrastructure.

“We have now reached a point where the continued lack of clarity over timelines for these reforms is taking a toll. We urgently need to push ahead, as any further delays will have a significant impact on our efforts to tackle climate change and make the UK’s 2050 net zero targets harder to deliver.”

The government said it “remains committed” to delivering on its existing commitment to eliminating “avoidable” waste by 2050 and wants to see 65 percent of municipal waste being recycled by 2035. It also noted that it would be introducing a ban on “countless” single-use plastic items.

It restated its commitment to implementing a deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers from 1 October 2025.


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