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Government once again ignores plastics industry

By Anthony Clark
Posted 27 November 2012

The House of Lords has approved amendments to the Packaging Waste regulation ahead of a debate in the House of Commons and once again the views of UK plastics have been ignored.

Environment minister Lord de Mauley faced criticism for disregarding advice from the plastics industry, which has lobbied hard for a more realistic set of targets rather than the “ambitious” ones proposed by Westminster.

Nonetheless Lord De Mauley showed the government was unmoved. “The largest increase under the targets proposed will be in plastic packaging recycling,” he said. “The target under consideration today will increase the UK's plastic recycling rate from 24% to 42% in 2017.

“This is an ambitious target compared with where we are now. At present the UK's recycling rate puts us towards the bottom of the EU league table. I acknowledge that there are concerns about this, but we need to do better.”

Lord Jenkin of Roding came to the support of the plastics industry. He explained that both the British Plastics Federation and Pafa had contacted him “with a very clear message”. “They said that they had been seeking to discuss these matters with officials in Defra, but were given the clear impression that they simply were not listening,” he explained.

“The industry put its case very clearly and in some detail as to why it felt that these targets were wrong. Its main message was that they are unachievable. It made the point, and I made it myself, that there really is no point in Governments setting targets that they are told by the people who are going to have to deliver them are unachievable.”

Lord De Mauley replied that “plastics producers who opposed the preferred option on the grounds that it was unachievable represented between 10% and 15% of the total obligated tonnage for plastics”.

Lord Jenkin suggested that this claim was short on veracity. “Does the Minister think that the two trade associations whose representatives he met, the British Plastics Federation and the Packaging and Films Association, represent only a small part of the industry?

“That is not the impression they gave me.”

The environment minister said he had listened carefully to concerns about the costs of the new regulations but asked the upper house to accept that “this needs to be seen in the context of the overwhelming benefit to the economy as a whole, including the UK's recycling and reprocessing industry”.


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