The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) mapped out its thinking as part of its new Resource and Waste Strategy. The producers of packaging will now be required to pay the full cost of collecting and recycling. There will also be charges for difficult to recycle packaging.

The costs to retailers and producers could rise to between £500m and £1bn annually. The government has also announced that it will simplify the “existing complicated recycling system” with a plan for a consistent approach across England.

While many of the announcements were expected, there was one surprise as Defra appeared to include “disposable cups” to be collected as part of a deposit return scheme. The proposed scheme is designed to also increase the recycling of single-use containers such as bottles and cans.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.”

The Packaging Federation’s chief executive Dick Searle said that the “devil will be in the detail” and that much of the hard work will begin once the consultation begins in 2019. He also warned that business “didn’t have a magical pot of money” to pay for producer responsibility reform. Searle said that there were signs that the government was listening to industry concerns and this was reflected through the proposed reform of the PRN system. However, he warned that there is still much work to be done and that prices may go up.

“Whatever industry does, it will be reflected through consumer prices,” he added. “Also, where is the consumer’s role in all of this? None of these proposals will work unless consumers do their bit. If we want to live the way we do then everyone has to play their part.”

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