Treasury unit branded EPR unachievable before latest delay

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The government’s much-vaunted recycling reforms were branded ‘unachievable’ just days before ministers announced a lengthy delay in the flagship extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, it has emerged.

A report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) in July gave the collection and packaging changes outlined in the landmark 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy a red rating.

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This represents serious concern from the Treasury unit, which believed successful delivery of a trio of key policies “appears to be unachievable”.

A red rating means “major issues” that “do not appear to be manageable or resolvable” meaning a project “may need re-scoping” or even have its “overall viability reassessed”. Of 244 big programmes assessed by the IPA, fewer than 10 per cent received such an assessment.

Days after the report was published, ministers announced that EPR – one of the three initiatives included in the reforms, alongside the deposit return scheme and consistency in collections – would be pushed back to October 2025.

Sustainable-packaging provider DS Smith has reiterated its previous warning that the UK is on course to miss a 2035 recycling target by 13 years.

Chief executive Miles Roberts said this week: “The role of paper and cardboard packaging has changed completely over the last decade as consumers have bought more shopping online. With more packaging now coming into the home, our recycling infrastructure needs huge investment and a consistent policy so every householder can effectively recycle.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are pushing ahead with our programme of reforms to reduce waste and improve our use of resources – building on our commitments clearly set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan earlier this year. This includes introducing a deposit return scheme for drink containers and implementing new rules to ensure packaging producers pay more of the cost of recycling their waste.

“We are engaging closely with the partners, businesses, local authorities and the waste management sector to deliver these projects and remain committed to eliminating avoidable waste by 2050.”