Campaigners welcomed some of the ambition within the strategy, but criticised the timeframes. Mary Creagh, chair of the House of Commons environmental audit committee, also accused the government of “kicking the waste can down the road yet again”. She said: “The plastic bottle deposit return scheme promised in 2018 won’t be ready until 2023. Textile waste piling up in landfill won’t be tackled until even later. With scientists warning we have just 12 years to tackle climate change, this strategy is too little, too slowly.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are supportive of new measures to promote sustainability and tackle waste, but they must be affordable and proportionate. Any new scheme, particularly the deposit return scheme, must be workable and avoid piling further financial pressure on businesses."
Martin Kersh, executive director at the Foodservice Packaging Association, also questioned the economics of including paper cups in the deposit scheme. “We welcome the proposed consultation on a deposit system for cups. Although this is a better option than the so called ‘latte levy’ […] this comes with a large caveat. We’re not aware of reverse vending machinery that can handle cups, which means customers’ deposits will need to be returned to the till where fresh food is being handled. This has huge hygiene implications and dealing with this alone will add costs to coffee and sandwich shops, cafés and takeaways, many of which are struggling on the high street. In addition there are costs associated with administering a deposit system, which will have a disproportionate financial impact particularly on the very hard pressed independent sector.”
Dominic Hogg, chairman at the consultancy Eunomia, saw it differently. “It is disappointing to see that once again the Government are not taking a strong stance on the issue of disposable cups. The measures included in the strategy focus on increasing the recyclability of the cups, which, whilst being well-intentioned, does not solve the littering problem caused by these throwaway items.”
Hogg was however “really pleased” that government is taking a strong stand on extended producer responsibility. “We have been pushing for schemes to cover the full end-of-life costs, including management of unrecycled products and packaging, and littering.”
CIWM, which represents the waste management sector, also welcomed the “fundamental reform of packaging producer responsibility”. That the strategy acknowledges the need for action right at the top of the waste hierarchy is also good news. “As well as a focus on food waste prevention and measures to address some of the key barriers to reuse and remanufacture, CIWM also welcomes the commitment to mirror the EU level ambitions to extend eco-design to embrace resource efficiency,” said executive director Chris Murphy.
Phil Conran, the director of 360 Environmental consultancy and chairman of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging, said it’s an ambitious programme of reform of regulation over the next three to five years – which begs the question: does government - and Defra in particular - have the resources necessary to deliver such a programme? “This strategy is a huge undertaking and the first that we have seen for England since 2010. At nearly 150 pages, it is not for the faint hearted but it is a welcome focus on an area that has been sadly lacking in political interest for too long,” he added.