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Recycling officers warn of procurement woes from delays to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system

Local authority recycling officers have expressed concern at a delay to the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), warning that it will cause problems with councils' procurement.

The phased introduction of EPR, which overhauls the packaging recovery notes compliance regime, was originally planned for 2023.

Cathy Cook, Chair of LARAC (the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee), said: “In alignment with the government's original timeline, our members have delayed new procurements and instead implemented interim contracts and extensions in order that they can go to the market with confidence and a strong offer, once the guidance on consistent collections, EPR and DRS [Deposit Return Scheme] has been fully clarified.

“These options are however, becoming more unfeasible, and updated service contracts for collections and processing will end up being procured within in a vacuum of uncertainty, leading to increased costs for local taxpayers. Alternatively, local authorities will have to award contracts with no provision for EPR until the next contract cycle, which could be a minimum of seven years.”

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LARAC said the ability for a local authority to implement the changes needed by EPR therefore, may now be delayed until 2030 or later.

“The original target within the Resources and Waste Strategy of 75% of packaging to be recycled by 2030 and a 65% recycling rate for municipal solid waste, only five years later by 2035, therefore puts local authorities under a huge amount of additional pressure,” it added.

LARAC also said the impact assessment for consistent collections and EPR assumed a contract replacement cycle amongst local authorities that was now out of date, and therefore the underpinning basis for the changes was no longer correct and should be reconsidered.

It said it would continue to engage with Defra on behalf of its members to represent their interests and concerns and endeavour to find compromises and solutions that will allow the earliest implementation of EPR, “by reviewing the procurement rules that are driving this problem”.

Steve Palfrey, Chair of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport’s (ADEPT’s) Waste Group, has meanwhile said: "ADEPT is very disappointed to learn that the introduction of EPR has been delayed by at least a year. Whilst the timescale was always ambitious, we had hoped that it would have been delivered in accordance with the programme that government had originally set out. This will mean that the public purse will continue to fund managing packaging waste for another year at a time when local authority budgets are already extremely stretched.

"We hope that government will take this additional time working with all of its stakeholders to deliver a first class EPR packaging scheme that can then be used as a blueprint for other materials – one that adds value, reduces waste and maximises resource efficiency. Our planet cannot afford for this to be delayed any longer than absolutely necessary. We look forward to seeing the outcome of the consultations and will continue to work with government to help deliver a circular economy and thriving natural environment."

A Defra spokesperson said: “This government wants to introduce EPR, DRS and consistent collections in England as soon as is practical and has sought feedback on proposed timelines through consultation.

“We are currently analysing responses to the EPR consultation and intend to publish the Government response shortly.”

The Government is expected to publish its response to the consultation shortly, with Defra saying it had received a significant volume of responses.

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