We all want to reduce the packaging we use. And we all want our food to be safe - and to reach us in peak condition. So it follows that we need a best-in-class recycling and re-use system for food and drink packaging - one that’s affordable for shoppers, and which is also good for the environment. Right now, we’re on the brink of getting a system that’s neither.
The priority for the next Prime Minister will be to address soaring inflation and the cost of living. They must look at whether government’s own actions are, in fact, adding to inflation.
An easy win is to reduce the costs of clunky regulation and red tape aimed at improving household recycling. The Government’s overly complex proposals, with the equally complicated name - ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ or ‘EPR’, are going to cost shoppers more at the tills.
Food and drink manufacturers understand we need to work with governments and consumers to protect the planet. But there are efficient and cost-effective ways of doing so and new recycling schemes must be designed with that in mind. Not in a way that’ll cause household bills to rise further and unnecessarily, as inflation soars.
The bottom line is we calculate EPR could add an extra £60 to every household’s annual shopping bill – the equivalent of 12 days of food and non-alcoholic drink for the lowest income families. With households already hard-pressed, and low income households living day by day to make ends meet, is this right? Efficient, effective, new recycling systems don’t need to cost this much, on top of what we all pay in Council Tax already.
The effect of EPR and other recycling policies will be to force up prices. Despite the good intentions behind them, they are ill-thought out. The Government should set the parameters for these new recycling schemes and allow the private sector to design and run them, driving the bold innovation and efficiencies that the UK waste system so sorely needs.
To create a truly circular economy - where all packaging is recyclable or reusable – industry, which has vast experience in running complex supply chain operations in a cost-efficient way, must be in charge or very closely involved.
So, whether it’s Rishi or Liz, we are urging the new PM to intervene urgently and cut the red tape on recycling – so working families can have a value for money system fit for the 21st century.
Karen Betts, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation