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Gove announces plans to simplify recycling

Plastic bottle
A deposit return scheme could help encourage plastic bottle recycling. Image credit Greenpeace

Household recycling could become simpler and more consistent under a new strategy to “overhaul England’s waste system”, the government has said.

The much-anticipated Waste and Resources Strategy, released today (18 December), announced a range of new proposals, many of which are subject to consultation.

Under the new rules, businesses and packaging manufacturers will pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste under a major new government strategy on waste and resources.

Companies currently pay around 10 per cent of disposal or recycling costs, according to Defra, but this would rise to paying the full net costs under the new rules.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy, environment minister Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.”

Other pledges include a simplification of the current recycling system, although the strategy stopped short of any concrete changes to the process, stating there are “plans for a consistent approach to recycling across England”, and a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households, subject to consultation.

The news comes amid growing frustration around the amount of plastic packaging waste, and awareness of the fragmented recycling processes across the UK. In September, founder of organic veg box company Riverford, Guy Singh-Watson, released a video rant calling on the government to unify kerbside collections to make it easier for companies to design genuinely sustainable packaging.

Under the new waste strategy, there will also be a review of responsibility of difficult to recycle items, such as electrical goods and bulky waste. The strategy also listed other proposals that are subject to consultation, including weekly collections of food waste and a deposit return scheme to increase recycling of single-use drinks containers.

The government also said it will clamp-down on illegal movements of waste by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste, and tougher penalties for rogue waste crime operators.

“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste,” said Gove.

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