Leaders from the horticulture sector have come together to write to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) backing the principles of the recently announced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) consultation on packaging, but tempered by concerns around the short timescales and lack of detail. If introduced, the scheme would see packaging producers liable for the full cost of managing packaging once it becomes waste.
In a letter coordinated by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), the HTA, Garden Industry Manufacturers Association (GIMA) and the Garden Centre Association (GCA) have highlighted five key areas where they believe the EPR proposals can be improved. They say that for the vision of a circular economy to be fulfilled and the EPR scheme to deliver against its aims, it needs to better recognise the business impact, particularly on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) - which make up most of the UK horticulture industry and that there must be greater clarity of cost obligations and reporting requirements of all businesses. A more detailed understanding of the recyclability of materials with consistent and reliable collections of these across the UK within a more realistic timeframe and a consideration for the essentialness of the packaging for safety and environmental reasons is needed.
James Clark, Director of Policy & Communications at the HTA, said: “As an industry intrinsically and positively linked to the environment, we recognise that we all have a part to play to minimise the impact of packaging. We want to ensure that the potential impact on our unique supply chain is given proper consideration and to make suggestions for where government support could make a real success of the proposed scheme.”
Mike Burks, Chairman of the Garden Centre Association (GCA) said: “Whilst we are entirely supportive of targets for recycling, it is important that garden centres have clarity around the point at which they would become responsible for the packaging associated with plants imported from abroad. Government must provide good, clear guidance to accompany the scheme and they must do this in good time, ahead of its introduction. We also need assurances that the modulations for fees will consider if the packaging is essential for the safety and survival of live products throughout transport.”
Vicky Nuttall, Director of Garden Industry Manufacturers’ Association (GIMA), said: “The complex nature of plastic recycling means that schemes such as this must take a joined-up approach to ensure that no one industry is put at a disadvantage and look to work with industries like ours to find solutions.
“Some horticultural products, like the flexible plastic used for growing media/compost bags could be unfairly excluded from recycling schemes, because of concerns about contamination and whilst most garden concentrate treatments are already packed in fully recyclable HDPE, these are excluded from household waste streams which will render then ‘unrecyclable’. This contrasts with other household chemicals, such as bleach, which can be recycled kerbside.
With government support it would be possible to develop industry-led circularity schemes to recapture flexible plastic, but right now we have real concerns that with no alternatives to this packaging available and despite huge efforts made to ensure their packaging is recyclable, our members will at a real disadvantage because of this scheme.”
The consultation closes at midnight tonight (Friday) and the proposed timeline from Defra shows the first element of the scheme is due to be introduced, alongside requirements to record data on packaging, as early as next year.