EPR delay and plastic pollution

In a bid to combat the rising challenges of plastic pollution, the reformed Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme was initially promised by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) in late 2018. It was scheduled for a grand launch in October 2024. However, recent developments have revealed that this highly anticipated initiative will now be postponed until October 2025.

The EPR scheme: Shifting responsibilities

One of the key takeaways of the new EPR scheme is its objective to transfer the financial responsibilities associated with managing packaging waste. This burden, which has historically been shouldered by councils and taxpayers, will now be shifted towards businesses. This strategic move not only encourages fiscal responsibility but also provides businesses with a clear incentive to innovate. By enhancing material efficiencies and designing packaging that’s easily recyclable, businesses can now considerably reduce their overheads.

Concurrent delays: EPR and DRS

It’s crucial to note that the postponement of the EPR isn’t an isolated incident. The rollout of the deposit return scheme (DRS) has also experienced similar delays. These consecutive postponements raise concerns over the government’s commitment to implementing meaningful waste reforms.

Why the delay?

Rebecca Pow, the Environment Minister, has outlined some of the reasons behind this decision. According to Pow, current economic challenges, including the escalating energy and material costs faced by packaging producers, played a pivotal role in this delay. The government’s reluctance to hastily implement the EPR stems from its commitment to preventing these increased costs from impacting households. Earlier this year the British Retail Consortium said that the EPR and Deposit Return Schemes combined would “add around £4 billion (US$4.3 billion) in costs to retailers,” which would will be passed down the line. DEFRA has also acknowledged external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, political transitions, and the prevailing cost-of-living crisis as contributing to this delay.

Despite these setbacks, Pow remains optimistic about the government’s vision for waste management, emphasising its determination to eradicate all avoidable waste by 2050.

A proactive approach

It’s worth recognising that many in the business sector have already demonstrated their commitment to these reforms. Numerous businesses have channelled significant investments into revamping their packaging to align with the EPR’s requirements and to gear up for the DRS. The collective hope is that these proactive efforts and financial investments do not become futile due to administrative delays.

EPR: The tip of the iceberg

While the EPR‘s focus is predominantly on packaging, it’s merely the beginning. Following its implementation, DEFRA intends to roll out similar reforms across diverse sectors, with textiles being one of the primary areas of focus.

Despite the delays, the transition to a net zero carbon footprint is inevitable, and the momentum towards it is undeniable. As nations globally rally to meet their climate commitments, regulatory frameworks, including those surrounding waste management and plastic pollution, are bound to intensify. Businesses and stakeholders should brace themselves for a future where regulations in areas like EPR will not only materialise but will become progressively stringent.

For asset managers and stakeholders alike, understanding the dynamics of these reforms and their implications is paramount. While delays like these might introduce temporary uncertainties, they also present opportunities for businesses to strategise, innovate, and position themselves advantageously in a rapidly evolving landscape.

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