Businesses and manufactures to pay full cost of recycling under Resources and Waste Strategy

Environment Secretary Michael Gove
Environment Secretary Michael Gove

As part of the recently published Resources and Waste Strategy by Defra, businesses and manufacturers will now pay the full cost of recycling and disposal of their packaging. 

This Strategy, unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, will aim to eliminate avoidable plastic waste and help leave the environment in a better state for future generations.  


The move to make businesses and manufacturers pay the full cost will change England’s waste system by putting a legal obligation on those responsible for producing harmful waste.  

Producers will also be expected to take accountability for items that can be harder or costly to recycle such as cars, electrical goods, and batteries. 

Following many studies about consumer confusion around recycling, householders will see the recycling system simplified, with new plans for a consistent approach to recycling across England.  

Timings for the introduction will be subject to discussions at the Spending Review.  

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource. 

“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste. Through this plan we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.” 

To help increase recycling levels further, the Government will introduce a consistent set of recyclable material for collection, subject to consultation, which will be funded by industry through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and will see industry pay higher fees if their items are hard to reuse, repair or recycle and will encourage sustainable design.  

EPR for packaging will aim to raise between £0.5 billion and £1 billion annually for recycling disposal.  

This action builds on the Autumn Budget, which announced a tax on plastic packaging if it does not meet at least 30% recycled content, from April 2022, subject to consultation.  

The Resources and Waste Strategy sets out how the Government will: 

  • Ensure producers pay the full net costs of disposal or recycling of packaging they place on the market by EPR 
  • Review producer responsibility schemes for items that can be harder or expensive to recycle and explore extending it to textiles, fishing gear, tyres, material from construction and bulky waste 
  • Introduce a consistent set of recyclable material collected from all households and businesses, and consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what to recycle 
  • Ensure weekly collections of food waste for every household, subject to consultation 
  • Introduce a deposit return scheme, subject to consultation, to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans and disposable cups filled at the point of sale 
  • Explore mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on products, to encourage manufacturers to design products that last longer and drive up the levels of repair and re-use  
  • Introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses 
  • Clamp-down on illegal movement of waste at home and abroad by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste, and tougher penalties for rogue waste crime operators if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax rules. 

The Government also announced £8 million of funding for eight new research projects that will explore new and various ways of making, using and recycling plastics.

Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) chief executive Paul Vanston said: “Substantial credit is due to Secretary of State Michael Gove, Environment Minister Therese Coffey and officials for the high quality and depth of their engagement work in the lead up to this Resources & Waste Strategy.  

“The focus on whole-system changes is welcome including packaging reforms, consistency of councils’ household collections, and ways to increase investment in recycling infrastructure.” 

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “We welcome the new Resources and Waste Strategy as an important contribution and route map for significantly improving resource management in England.  Although many key proposals remain subject to consultation, the signalling of major change is clear. If effectively implemented, many of the measures outlined hold the promise of the kickstart to the circular economy that we urgently need.” 

Environmental Services Association chief executive Jacob Hayler said: “As an industry we’ve been crying out for action to make things clearer and easier for householders and businesses, to boost recycled content and reduce unnecessary packaging.   

“The UK public wants to recycle more plastics and other materials, and our sector wants to invest in, and accelerate, the move to a lower carbon, more circular economy. This strategy sets out how that can happen for the benefit of the economy and the environment.” 

Manufacturer organisation EEF head of climate, energy and Environment Roz Bulleid said: “Manufacturers are keen to play their part in the circular economy and are pleased to finally see more detail from government on its plans. More consistent waste and recycling collections and better product labelling should help lead to an improvement in the quality of recycled material, making it a more promising option for manufacturers.  

“However, EEF’s members will be concerned about the potential cost implications of some proposals, particularly around extended producer responsibility, mandatory guarantees and extended warranties, and anxious to engage with government on the detail of its plans.”

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