Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to encourage a shift from conventional single use plastic films to certified compostable alternatives; and if he will set a target under the Environment Bill to accelerate that process.
While compostable materials may be seen as a solution to reduce the impact of waste, they can also be more environmentally damaging than non-compostable materials if disposed of incorrectly. The Government is concerned that, some claims about the compostability of plastic-based products cannot be verified.
In order to consider impacts carefully, Defra and BEIS published a call for evidence to help us consider the development of standards or certification criteria for bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastics, and to better understand their effects on the environment and our waste management system. We are currently analysing responses to the call for evidence and will publish the Government’s response shortly.
Our Resources and Waste Strategy sets out our ambition to transition to a circular economy by keeping resources in the system for longer and extracting maximum value from them, before recycling materials when they can no longer be reused. We have recently published consultations on introducing Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging and introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers. These consultations will inform policy that will transform the economic incentives on packaging producers by encouraging an increase in the amount and quality of unavoidable plastic packaging that is recycled or reused, so driving up recycling rates and helping to move us towards a circular economy.
We are also preparing to launch a second consultation on increasing the consistency of materials collected for recycling from households, businesses and other organisations in England, which will seek views on the collection and disposal of compostable and biodegradable materials and the recycling of plastic films.
The UK Plastics Pact is targeting plastic film as a coordinated effort involving the entire value chain to fix the system to create a circular economy for single use plastic films. Last year the Plastics Pact published a roadmap ‘Creating a Circular Economy for Flexible Plastic Packaging’, which sets out the high-level actions that need to be taken by each part of the value chain. The new roadmap sets out five key areas where efforts should be focused in order to develop a circular economy for flexible plastics. These are: designing packaging that can be recycled and sorted; capitalising on existing front of store collection points; implementing kerbside collection by all local authorities; investing in sorting and reprocessing capacity and capabilities; and ensuring strong and stable end markets for recycled flexible plastic packaging.
The Environment Bill requires the Government to set at least one long-term, legally binding target in four priority areas, including Resource Efficiency and Waste Reduction. This will not be focused on increasing the use of compostable plastics, instead the target will ensure a holistic approach to all materials. These targets will be set following a robust, evidence-led process that includes seeking independent expert advice, a role for stakeholders and the public, and parliamentary scrutiny.