Defra surveys street bins to calculate EPR costs

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) surveys street litter bins to inform its list of ‘commonly littered’ items for which producers will need to cover the costs of disposal.

Defra announced the survey at the third of its business readiness forums, held to allow industry to discuss the government’s collection and packaging reforms and delivery projects, on 7 February.

In its March 2022 response to the consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging, the government confirmed it would require producers to cover the cost of managing packaging likely to be disposed of in street bins, defined as bins managed by a local authority.

To calculate their obligation, producers will need to report the total weight of the ‘commonly binned’ items they have placed on the market by material category.

The government’s current list of commonly binned packaging items includes packaging from takeaway food and drinks, confectionary weighing less than 230g and tobacco products, among other things.

The list was determined from a study carried out by Keep Britain Tidy in 2020.

Jack Ambler, Defra’s team leader for packaging EPR, told the forum that an as yet unappointed scheme administrator would use this information to identify which producers would be obligated for street bin waste payments and how much each would be charged. The administrator, which is likely to be a public sector body, is expected to be fully operational in 2024.

Producers will not need to know exactly how many commonly binned items end up in a bin, Mr Ambler said, as the scheme administrator will determine the proportion that do and base each producer’s obligation on these calculations.

“We’re not expecting producers to report the amount that they think has ended up in a bin,” he said. “Rather, we want the total amount that matches the descriptions on the ‘commonly binned’ list.”

Producers will also be required to cover the cost of communication activities aimed at preventing packaging from being littered.

Mr Ambler said the government’s approach to binned waste was UK-wide and would be reviewed in 2026/27.

However, the situation is complicated, as payments for packaging dropped on the ground as litter are not in scope of the UK approach. Mr Ambler said this was “primarily due to concerns around the complexity of administering such an approach”. Payments to any bodies other than local authorities are also out of scope.

Unlike in England and Northern Ireland, the Welsh and Scottish governments have committed to exploring how they could implement payments for littered packaging. Mr Ambler said costs would be limited to packaging placed on the market in Scotland and Wales only.

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