NEWS / Sustain

Environment groups demand targets to tackle packaging waste

18 environmental groups, co-ordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link, respond to the latest Government waste and recycling figures by demanding legally binding targets.

Overall recycling in the UK has stalled and packaging waste recycling is less now than in 2013. The latest waste and recycling figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) show that overall recycling rates have increased only very slightly in 2016 to 44.6% (up from 44.3% in 2015 and down from 44.9% in 2014.)

The Wildlife and Countryside Link network, who are part of the Sustain alliance, have joined forces with 18 environmental groups (including Sustain members Friends of the Earth, Marine Conservation Society and RSPCA) to demand the Government take action to reduce this growing waste mountain.

The campaigners are urging Defra to publish a definitive action plan to deliver these proposals and meet the UK Government’s ambition of zero avoidable waste by 2050, including setting legally-binding targets to: 

  • Reduce single-use plastics as the foremost priority, with clear timelines and measures by which to do so
  • Invest centrally in the UK recycling infrastructure, so that all plastics and other recyclable waste can be put in every household recycling bin nationwide by 2023
  • Once a comprehensive recycling infrastructure is in place, require all packaging to have a simple recyclable or non-recyclable label, as consumers are baffled by recycling labelling
  • Lay out targets for each 5-year period from 2025-2050 on the percentage of recyclable plastic, wood, glass, metal, card and cardboard to be recycled, working towards their 100% recycling – zero waste target by 2050. A clear action plan is needed to achieve this
  • Reform Producer Responsibility Obligations to make producers financially responsible for the costs of their waste production, as 90% of the costs of waste disposal are currently footed by the taxpayer, and to incentivise eco-design for packaging

Julian Kirby, Waste Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

‘With China’s slamming of the door on contaminated UK recycling and people across the country increasingly appalled at the impacts of plastic pollution, these recycling statistics are another damning indictment of the government’s ineffective laissez-faire approach to waste. Gove’s green speeches must be matched with clear targets and direction if England is to match Wales’s startling progress, and undo the disastrous impact of his colleagues’ 2011 Waste Review.’

Wales is the second best recycler of household waste in the world. These latest figures from Defra show a marked difference in recycling rates across the nations:

Recycling rates of waste from households across the UK
Wales 57.3%
England 44.9%
Northern Ireland 43.0%
Scotland 42.8%



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