FT - James Lowman, chairman, ACS

ACS chief executive James Lowman

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has submitted evidence to a government committee inquiry on waste, resources and recycling reforms, highlighting the need for proper lead times and planning when making major changes such as the introduction of deposit return schemes, extended producer responsibility, and single-use plastic bans.

The Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry is set to question Defra officials on whether the government has effective plans to meet its waste and recycling ambitions, and whether Defra is on track to deliver on packaging reforms.

Measures under scrutiny in the inquiry include the introduction of a UK-wide DRS scheme and extended producer responsibility, both of which have been pushed back to 2025, after the next general election.

In its evidence, ACS welcomed delays in the introduction of these measures, calling on the government to ensure that enough time is given to legislators, producers and retailers to adapt.

On the process for introducing an environmentally and financially sustainable deposit return scheme, ACS sets out the four pillars of such a scheme as:

1. An interoperability plan to ensure the scheme works across the UK’s four nations.

2. Draft regulations laid before parliament with significant lead time to the proposed go-live date.

3. A commitment from government to underwrite finances for setting up a DMO (Deposit Management Organisation).

4. A timeline that properly reflects the time needed for industry to prepare.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The government is taking the right steps toward ensuring a more sustainable future, but it’s absolutely essential that significant changes and new infrastructure like that which will be needed under a deposit return scheme are given enough time and scrutiny to get the details right. We cannot risk rushing out half-baked policies that could end up harming retailers, consumers, the industry and ultimately the environment.”

The ACS submission also raises concerns about the lack of communication provided by the government ahead of the single-use plastics ban in October this year. Single-use plastic plates, bowls, trays, containers, cutlery and balloon sticks will be banned in England in just two months’ time, but ACS said that to date the government’s communication to retailers on how they can adapt their businesses has been severely lacking.