UK will adopt EU circular economy measures

Nation’s Environment Minister says UK is “committed to increasing recycling rates,” and beverage container deposit-return system will be put in place.

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August 3, 2020

Although the United Kingdom is exiting the European Union, its government has announced it intends to adopt a Circular Economy Package based on wider EU goals, including a target to recycle 65 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) by 2035.

The U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and member of Parliament Rebecca Pow, who also serves as Environment Minister, jointly stated that the Circular Economy Package builds on the government’s “landmark Resources and Waste Strategy [that will] ensure we go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources.”

The Circular Economy Package, published at the end of July, sets targets to recycle 65 percent of MSW by 2035 and to have no more than 10 percent of MSW going to landfills by the same year.

The law restricts materials that can be landfilled or incinerated, and includes a requirement that materials separately collected for recycling must not be incinerated or sent to landfill. “This paves the way for more recyclable materials to be kept in circulation within the resources and waste system, instead of being burned or buried,” states DEFRA.

“We are committed to increasing our recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfill to create a cleaner waste industry and reduce carbon emissions,” states Pow.

She continues, “Through our landmark Environment Bill we will be bringing forward a raft of measures to do just that, and this new Circular Economy Package takes us yet another step forward to transforming our waste industry.”

The Circular Economy Package will come into law later in 2020, according to a late July statement accompanying publication of the new rules. The press release refers to the new law as “an important part of the government’s existing commitment to move toward a more circular economy and reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Methods to boost recycling outlined in the packaging include “having a consistent set of recyclable materials for collection in England, no matter which part of the country people live in; a deposit-return scheme (DRS) for single-use drinks containers to increase recycling rates and tackle litter; and an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system that sees industry paying higher fees if their packaging is harder to reuse or recycle.”

Adds DEFRA, “We are also committed to introducing a new world-leading tax for businesses that produce or import plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled content. This is subject to further consultation currently taking place.”