Will the Government’s proposed EPR Regulations increase costs to the consumer?

Will the Government’s proposed EPR Regulations increase costs to the consumer?


At a visit to the home meals delivery company, Wiltshire Farm Foods’ Portbury depot (28.4.23), North Somerset MP, Dr Liam Fox, listened to concerns shared by the company that consumers will be bearing the brunt of pending legislation with increased costs, at a time when they can ill afford it, and agreed the Government should review the proposals before it is too late.

The UK government plans to introduce new regulations for what is called “extended producer responsibility” (EPR), to tackle the growing problem of packaging waste. These regulations aim to shift the waste and recycling costs of packaging from local authorities to the businesses that produce it - a principle that industry is supportive of.

However, Wiltshire Farm Foods, along with the food industry at large, is saying that the government has not thought through the proposed regulations properly and it has significant concerns about some unjustifiable omissions. Not least, that there is no recognition of responsible businesses that have invested large amounts in future-looking systems that improve rates of re-use and recycling. These businesses will in effect, be paying twice, a price which ultimately will be paid for by the consumer.

[Pictured – Left to right): Lee Sheppard (Director of Policy, apetito), Dr Liam Fox MP for North Somerset, Phil Truman, (Operations Manager, Wiltshire Farm Foods).

Dr Fox was shown crates of plastic trays which Wiltshire Farm Foods has collected from customers, and which under its trailblazing recycling programme are sent for recycling into completely new trays containing a minimum of 80% recycled plastic.

With a customer base that averages 83 years of age, and which is passionate to reduce waste and support environmental improvements, Wiltshire Farm Foods is proud of the scheme which it believes is a world-first and means its ready meal trays are not part of the kerbside recycling process but represents a better model with increased collection and recycling rates.

Yet having invested heavily in the process, it will now still fall under the proposed regulations and be asked to pay accordingly.

Lee Sheppard, Director of Policy for Wiltshire Farm Foods, who hosted the visit from Ronnie says it is little more than another tax and the company is being penalised for doing the right thing and investing in responsible practice to support government policy, saying:

“Whilst we fully support the principles of EPR, this is a missed opportunity for government to address packaging waste in a way that rewards good behaviour and without adding cost to consumers.

“It’s disappointing that after years of operation, only 36% of UK plastic PTT (pots, tubs and trays) are collected from households and furthermore, 59% of those collections are actually sent abroad for processing with uncertain results. The reality is that some of it simply ends up in landfill.

“With our own system, after just one year of operation, we see far better collection rates closer to 50% and furthermore guarantee that 100% of the trays we collect are reformed into new trays – results far better than achieved through domestic recycling.”

Dr Fox agreed that the proposals needed clarification saying:

“Anything which increases costs to the consumer is of concern right now and it’s clear that the proposed regulations would benefit from a further review.

“It’s vital that we tackle waste and increase recycling including through legislation, but the legislation needs to recognise the efforts that entrepreneurial businesses have made and not increase the financial burden on them for a service they are already managing, and very effectively too.

“Here we have a pretty unique situation with conscientious regular customers washing the food trays and returning them directly on the doorstep to Wiltshire Foods delivery staff when they arrive with a fresh order, and the company then recycling the whole tray to make new trays. This puts them ahead of the legislation so the question is can we find a way to refine the proposed legislation to recognise this.

“I will be pursuing this matter with government ministers. Let's give credit where credit is due and keep down costs."

Wiltshire Farm Foods delivers high-quality, award-winning, prepared meals to more than 150,000 customers nationwide with an estimated 7,427 people over 75 living in the North Somerset constituency. Customers can choose from a range of delicious traditional favourite mail meals and popular desserts and lighter snacks as well as meals with extra dense calories for those with small appetites.

Sheppard concludes:

“We implore the government to reconsider its EPR legislative proposals before it’s too late and customers who can ill afford to pay more are penalised”.

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