NEWS & INSIGHT FROM THE FPA
IRELAND PLANS TO BAN SINGLE USE HOT & COLD CUPS
The Irish government has published its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, which includes a proposal for a latte levy and a levy on cold drinks cups with an ambition to ban both altogether. The document also includes a proposal to impose environmental levies on food containers. As a first stage, the Irish government intends ‘trialling the elimination of coffee cups entirely in selected towns’ and prohibiting the use of cold cups at some venues as part of licensing conditions. Packaging producers will be required to pay 80% of waste management costs with six named single use plastics items paying for their associated litter costs including cups and food containers. From July 2021 EPS cups and containers, plastic straws, cutlery and plates will be banned.
All of these actions are being implemented to meet an objective of ‘shifting the focus away from waste disposal and treatment to ensure that materials and products remain in productive use for longer’.
Submissions to the Irish government’s consultation on environmental levies clearly explained how paper cups are being recycled, with schemes including store collections, in the UK. It is therefore disappointing to see this evidence has not even been mentioned. The huge progress made on collecting and recycling paper cups has shown that the board used to produce cups can be kept in productive use for longer.
Cups are clearly being specifically targeted as a ‘single use plastic’ even though many contain 93% board and will attract a levy, pay 80% of their waste management costs and 100% of litter related costs. Given the overall strategy has been made in the context of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon reduction, it is very hard to imagine the contribution these actions will make to the Irish government’s overall climate change agenda. Can a levy be justified given the devastating impact it will have for the high street at a time when the sector is on its knees and forced to announce large scale job cuts? Research shows a latte levy negatively impacts high street coffee sales, which in turn has a knock-on effect on other retailers. Tobacco products will have an extended producer responsibility but no levy despite cigarette butts being more commonly littered than cups and containing a far higher percentage of plastic.
There are some very good proposals in the plan, including a commitment to ‘examine how segregated waste and recycling bins using uniform labelling could be provided on street, and at public events and festivals’, a commitment to ‘work to reduce contamination levels in recycling bins’ and action to reduce food waste. There is however no mention of ensuring those who drop litter are held to account and only scant recognition of the role packaging has to play in reducing food waste.
It is impossible not to feel the disproportionate action to be taken on cups is purely a political act which will ultimately make a tiny contribution to Ireland’s overall targets, while adding further devastation in the retail coffee sector. It is however important to take notice of Irish environmental legislation, as we saw with bags, Ireland tends to be the pioneer for the rest of Europe.
The webinar last Thursday was a lively and impassioned debate looking at waste management and litter. Our thanks to both Martin Curtois from Veolia and John Read from Clean Up Britain for making time to take part. If you missed the session yesterday, you can catch up here.
Martin put the current consultations into perspective from a waste management point of view and highlighted the critical role that waste processors have in the whole product life cycle, urging joined-up thinking from design to recovery and recycling. As Veolia are heavily involved, amongst other things, in kerbside collections and street cleaning, they are in a strong position to share what works and what doesn’t. Keeping it simple both in terms of process and material is fundamental. Martin also emphasised the importance of contributing to the next round of consultations on legislation due next spring
John highlighted the lack of coordination between various local, regional, national authorities and departments, which results in a lack of enforcement. He urged members to sign up to the CLUB petition to trigger a debate in Parliament to increase litter fines significantly. Please sign up to this and share the link within your organisation. Britain is the dirty man of Europe and we have a long way to go to get citizens engaged and take litter seriously – we need a serious change of mindset and cultural attitudes to litter, both amongst the public and local/national authorities.
It’s clear there is no silver bullet and that proposed legislation such as DRS may be effective, as Martin thought, but needs to be considered amongst a plethora of other initiatives to bring about change.
SCOTLAND REMOVES PLANNING PROCESS FOR DRS
In order to facilitate the installation of Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) required for the public to reclaim deposits on returned beverage containers, Scottish government has laid an order before the Scottish Parliament which will remove the requirement for planning permission subject to certain criteria being met. Criteria include size (not to exceed 3.5 meters in height and 80 square metres in footprint) and location (not within 15m of residential accommodation).
The former is less than likely to impede the installation of RVMs, however the latter will mean RVMs can’t be installed where there are flats above shops. For those who live close to bottle banks 15 metres will not stop you hearing noise late at night, especially glass, which has been included in Scotland’s DRS against great opposition. Clearly it is full steam ahead for DRS to start summer 2022 in Scotland. We suspect, given recent changes to planning law, a similar ruling will be passed by the Westminster government.
HUGH’S MUTED WAR ON PLASTICS
The reaction to the show has certainly been muted compared with previous series, with less social media commentary and scant media coverage. The Grocer published an excellent balanced opinion and National Flexibles has called for an OFFCOM inquiry on the grounds the show breaches BBC guidelines on bias, read their Letter here. Surely five minutes could have been created to demonstrate why plastic is used for such a wide range of applications, especially as Hugh is meant to be committed to reducing food waste. An interview with WRAP to discuss the UK Plastics Pact would have gone a little way to providing some balance.
THE RULE OF SIX & CALORIE REDUCTIONS
The announcement of parties no larger than six in hospitality environments has quite rightly resulted in calls for the furlough scheme to be extended, not only to the sector itself but also to those suppliers wholly reliant on it for their existence. The hospitality sector has worked hard and is committing expenditure to deliver its requirements to protect public health, but such announcements could reverse the growing public confidence in going out. It is hard to understand how the sector will manage if there is no normality before Christmas and this peak season is lost.
This week the government also published its voluntary calorie reduction guidelines for the food industry with the key guidelines including:
- 20% calorie reduction for most meal categories in the out of home, delivery and takeaway sector, alongside a maximum guideline for all categories
- A 10% calorie reduction for children’s meal bundles
- Combined guidelines for the out of home and retail sector of a 5% reduction for sandwiches and a 20% reduction for pizza and pastry products.
As Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality stated, this certainly adds fuel to the fire.
OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY AND LITTER
Those members who tuned into last week’s webinar will have been astounded to hear that the Office of Environmental Responsibility, which is to be set up as part of the Environment Bill, will not have the powers to assess whether local authorities are fulfilling their legal responsibilities to ‘ensure they keep their land clear of litter’. The legislation refers to the natural environment which is defined to exclude roads and pavements. This is clearly an odd decision and means the OER will be able to respond to complaints about litter in parks but not on the pavements surrounding them.
For manufacturers, distributors and retailers paying for the cost of litter from 2023, this means your money will be spent without a formal body ensuring that the money is being used correctly by Local Authorities. They must ensure they fulfil their legal responsibilities with regard to litter including their performance in issuing fixed penalty notices to members of the public creating litter.
Retail Gazette A new initiative designed to save tonnes of ‘scrunchable’ plastic – including carrier bags, ready meal lids and biscuit wrappers – has been launched by the Co-op across 50 stores across the south of England. Read here.
Edie reports that McDonald’s has launched a new global partnership to utilise the Loop collection model from TerraCycle that will see reusable and returnable cups trialled to cut back on single use plastics. Read here.
Let’s Recycle reports on WRAP’s initiative for buildings to turn green during recycling week (21-27 September) – including The London Eye, Blackpool Tower and Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Read here.
Let’s Recycle also reports that Mondi is to conduct full-scale industrial trials to prove digital watermarking could be viable for sorting waste at scale. Read here.