EPR requires progress not perfection – McCaffery

Environmental compliance data specialists Ecoveritas has called on The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to overcome its endless procrastination and move the new EPR system forward. 

Last week Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey reportedly invited industry leaders to engage in crisis talks to salvage its under-fire flagship environmental policy, Extended Producer Responsibility. That came less than a week after the British Retail Consortium told ministers regulation, including the proposed rollout of EPR, should be put on hold so supermarkets could focus on keeping prices down. 

Dr Coffey returned to DEFRA as part of new prime minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle in October, having previously served as recycling minister between 2016 and 2019. Hopefully, the department can expedite progress on this and other vital policies, finally ending a string of frustrating delays. 

“We’re beyond the point where prompt, clear and decisive action is urgently needed,” said Andrew McCaffery, Global EPR Director. “Having been hindered by ambiguous targets, a lack of transparency, and a revolving door of ministers, these flagship EPR reforms desperately need a new breath of momentum at several levels. 

“Getting EPR reforms “over the line” should not be a toilsome task. Still, if co-designing the scheme’s delivery with producers represents the only way forward, then it must be done. 

“While we don’t doubt the collective endeavour to get this right for the next decade and beyond, we would caution against more dithering and delay, with these reforms being caught up in a spin cycle at a seminal moment for all of us.” 

Draft legislation was today laid in Parliament, setting out how businesses have to record data in 2023, ahead of the rollout of EPR in 2024. This is a precursor to the government’s eagerly anticipated EPR response document, which will move the new EPR system forward.  

And while McCaffery was more than happy to give credit where it is due and welcomed the news, he quickly pointed out the urgent need for a precise timetable of dates. 

“It is nigh impossible for businesses to plan given the chaotic and unpredictable goings on in government,” he added. “Still, many good things are happening, and with stringent regulation – through the entire product life cycle from concept through production, distribution and disposal – real change can and will occur. 

“It is chastening to hear words like ‘redesign’, especially at this crucial moment. Still, if the planned series of meetings with the industry helps ensure the financial incentives are present and we avoid suboptimality, then the added process is worthwhile. You can fine-tune all you like, but EPR, in all its guises, will turn a desire to be sustainable into a requirement for a license to operate. There is no getting away from that – nor should there be.” 

Ecoveritas offers a unique combination of consulting, data and software that helps companies around the globe meet the complex challenges of managing environmental compliance reporting. 

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