10 July 2018

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) today issued its National Infrastructure Assessment, which sets out a long-term strategy for the UK’s economic infrastructure from 2020 to 2050.

Paul Vanston, CEO of INCPEN comments as follows on the packaging-related recommendations on page 48.

I was very pleased NIC colleagues sought information, understanding and support from the sectors involved in the recycling and waste value chain. This has enabled today’s Assessment to be well informed, and better crafted, with purposeful recommendations that can be acted upon by the government, businesses and communities. The climate is ripe for change, and many of the delivery mechanisms are in place.

The recommendations for clear two-symbol labelling, and consistent household collections of packaging recyclables go hand in hand. These are very welcome and amplify the WRAP-INCPEN-ACP letter to Michael Gove, Secretary of State at Defra in April, which provided the value chain’s views on packaging options. INCPEN would evolve the NIA’s suggested timings. Instead of a three-year separation for unambiguous labelling (2022), and consistent collections for packaging (2025), the two could be implemented more simultaneously at a point between 2022 and 2025, the earlier the better if we can make that happen. I also suggest the OPRL system should be the starting point for clear labelling. The scheme is widely adopted across the UK by businesses and there is high consumer recognition of the OPRL system.

In terms of consistency of packaging collections, I support local authorities’ consideration and adoption of the options supported in England (the WRAP Consistency Framework), in Wales (the Welsh Blueprint) and in Scotland (the Scottish Recycling Charter). The prime consideration is a common and convenient service to householders for the collection of their recyclable packaging, supported by good packaging design to enable unambiguous labelling consumers can easily and correctly act on. It’s in the UK’s interests, and the value chain – including packaging specifiers and local authorities – to move forward together effectively.

Resolving plastic packaging issues is a high priority. I strongly advocate the UK Plastics Pact (UKPP) led by WRAP, and the Marine Litter Platform (MLP), led by the British Plastics Federation, as two significant programmes of work to help tackle our value chain’s problems. The UKPP Collaborative Action Group on Recycling, Reuse and Compostability had its first meeting last week. This Group needs to be instrumental in helping achieve the consistent packaging collections, and unambiguous labelling, recommended in the NIA.

I strongly welcome the NIA recommendation on incentives for packaging design and recyclability, which resonate with the industry’s views as presented by WRAP-INCPEN-ACP to Mr Gove in April. I am keenly anticipating Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy and the complementary consultation. These will help move us forward on the necessary changes to packaging extended producer responsibility – including overhaul of the Packaging Recovery Notes system – and on well-designed options for a UK-wide deposit return system that fits well with local authorities’ kerbside recycling schemes.