Season's Greetings and a look at the waste regulatory year ahead

22 DECEMBER 2021

As the year draws to an uncertain close, we just wanted to wish a very Merry Christmas to those that celebrate it and Season's Greetings to those that don't. 
And a Happy New Year of course, a year that is going to be very busy, especially at the start.

The Government's consultation responses for EPR, DRS and consistency are expected sometime in January. EPR in particular, will be of great interest given the difficulties that Defra has faced in achieving a workable solution for business packaging waste and there are rumours that a further consultation will be held on this specific subject outlining plans on retaining a tightened PRN system.

The recent news of a delay to the introduction of the Scottish DRS system to 2023 will give relief to some, especially as there will need to be an amendment to the current packaging regulations to exclude Scottish DRS material from the UK PRN system. We await with interest, Defra's proposals for the introduction of DRS across the rest of the UK but it seems unlikely this will happen before 2024.

Whilst still on the subject of producer responsibility, the Defra review of the WEEE Regulations - not a consultation - will be published in January as a pre-cursor to consultations on that and batteries later in the year. 

The big one for 2022 is the Plastic Packaging Tax. Starting in April, this will affect companies manufacturing plastic packaging in the UK or importing plastic packaging and packaged items where the recycled content is less than 30%. With a threshold of 10 tonnes per year, this will affect thousands of companies.

We are also expecting consultations on tightened carrier/broker/dealer licensing, waste tracking and waste export controls early in the year. Whilst these are unikely to be implemented until 2024/25, they will give insight to a much tighter regulatory regime in these currently, very loose areas.

There was a consultation back in 2017 on changes to the Exemptions system that proposed massive cuts in the tonnage that would be allowed to be managed under Exemptions such as the T4, T9 and S1/2. We have been expecting the final position to be published for the last two years, but are told this should be happening 'soon'.

And then there are tightening controls on sites with Environmental Permits. The EA has published a range of sector-specific Appropriate Measures that will replace BAT and which will see widescale Permit reviews being conducted by the Agency in 2022 and beyond leading potentially, to many sites unable to operate in the way they currently do. 

Behind all this are severe resource issues in both the EA and Defra that may limit implementation and effectiveness. The EA in particular, is struggling to maintain performance requirements with permits applications being delayed by months - and sometimes, years - and waste export notifications being severely delayed as well.

Continuing Covid restrictions, of course, won't help, but overall, it looks to be a challenging and dare one say it, exciting new year ahead.