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Retailers call for delay to packaging recycling reforms

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Retailers, and food manufacturers, have lobbied the UK government to delay landmark environmental reforms that would force them to pay for the collection and recycling of household packaging waste from next year.

The Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging (EPR) scheme will apply to companies with a turnover of more than £1m and sell own-brand products or import products in packaging or sell non-UK made plastic products through an online marketplace.

Any businesses that fall under the scheme will be required to report packaging waste data from January 2024 and pay the full cost of waste disposal from the April.

Retailers have argue the scheme will cost at least £1.7bn a year. They have warned that the bulk of the cost would then be passed on to consumers through higher food prices. The British Retail Consortium asked the government to “urgently rethink” the recycling reforms.

Dick Searle, the chief executive of the Packaging Federation told The Guardian: “It’s a shambles to be honest. How on earth can we get to work if we don’t know how the people collecting stuff from households are going to be working?

“We’re all on the same page here [on reducing waste], but it just isn’t fit for purpose and the timetables are completely unrealistic.”

However campaigners warned that delays to EPR would have devastating consequences for the environment. Council leaders added that any failure to act would mean council tax payers continue to shoulder all recycling costs rather than sharing it with corporations.

“Currently taxpayers foot the bill for processing the waste, often dealing with excessive packaging and the challenges of material that is difficult to recycle,” said Cllr Linda Taylor, the environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association.

“Councils have been planning for the introduction of EPR in 2024 following previous delays and would be disappointed by another delay creating further uncertainties related to the waste reforms that risk delaying investment.”

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