ACS chief executive James Lowman

The government is being urged to explain how a take-back scheme for disposable cups will impact small stores.

The call has come from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) in response to a government consultation on reforming the UK’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme to drive up the rates of packaging waste recycling.

Through the introduction of the proposals set out in its EPR consultation, and other environmental measures such as its deposit return scheme (DRS), the government is aiming to reach a total UK packaging recycling rate of 78% by 2030, with the estimated recycling rates for each material exceeding those set in the European Union, and a minimum recycling rate for packaging that falls within the EPR scheme of 73% by 2030.

In its submission to the consultation, ACS has raised concerns about a new proposal for a take-back scheme for disposable cups, referring to the time, space and resource pressures on retailers (especially those running the smallest stores) that is already going to be in place with the introduction of a deposit return scheme for other containers.

ACS has urged the Government to provide additional clarity on how such a take-back scheme would work in practice, including detail on which stores would be included in the scheme.

As part of the wider proposals for EPR reform, packaging producers will be made responsible for the full cost of managing the packaging that they place on the market. This is expected to be around £2.7bn in the first year. The cost of managing packaging waste includes:

  • collecting, sorting and recycling of packaging waste from households and businesses;
  • collecting and disposing of packaging in the residual waste stream from households only; and
  • litter and refuse management costs, including bin and ground litter.

ACS supports the proposal, set out in the consultation, for brand owners (packaging producers) to be the single point at which the costs of the scheme are applied, as they have the most influence on the design and recyclability of packaging and are best placed to respond to incentives through modulated fees (producers who have a higher proportion of recyclable packaging pay less into the scheme).

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We support the Government’s intention to increase rates of packaging recycling, and are in favour of brand owners being the single point of compliance for fees associated with the revised Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme.

“We are however concerned about the potential impact of a take-back system for disposable cups, which could have a significant impact on small stores that are already dealing with the implementation of the upcoming deposit return scheme. We have called on the government to provide clarity on which stores will be required to take back disposable cups, and to make a full assessment of the impact that it would have on convenience retailers.”

ACS has also urged the government to minimise reporting requirements for retailers, and to exempt small businesses from any such requirements.

Lowman added: “For small stores, the existing packaging waste regulations have been characterised more by bureaucracy than by active recycling. For the new system to work, we need to minimise the administration and calculations required from these businesses, and focus efforts on reducing the impact of packaging on the environment.”