Hitting the bottle: sector concerned about recycling proposals

By Andrew Don

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants concerned by Government's recycling and plastic reduction plans

Related tags: Recycling, Plastic

New environmental initiatives to encourage recycling and reduce plastic pollution has heightened anxiety in the hospitality sector at a time when it is already battling with the uncertainties of Brexit.

The sector fears the new plastic recycling proposals announced yesterday (Monday 19 February) risk either eroding margins or hitting customers’ pockets, and undermining voluntary efforts the sector has already undertaken to cut down on the plastics scourge.

The consultations announced propose bringing in a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for cans, plastic and glass bottles. All the changes will form part of the forthcoming Environment Bill.

The DRS consultation will focus on two options: the “all-in” model which would be a catch-all for all drinks irrespective of size. The second – “on-the-go” model would restrict containers to those of less than 750ml and sold in single-format containers.

The consultation also proposes that packaging producers will have to pay the full cost of dealing with their waste and a “world-leading” tax on plastic packaging that does not meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022.

A UKHospitality (UKH) spokesman conceded that while a DRS might not be a big deal in practice, it had the potential to be and had to be looked at in “a bit more detail”.

He said the sector’s main concern was whether or not it would be listened to. “It doesn’t always work that way,” he said.

Another fear was that packaging companies would pass on the new tax on plastic packaging, which the hospitality sector could not afford to absorb.

“Inevitably with a lot of companies it will get passed on to the consumer. It’s no good for consumers and it’s not particularly helpful for businesses either,” he said.

UKH chief executive Kate Nicholls pointed out that hospitality businesses had long been working hard to tackle plastic and packaging waste, such as the phasing out of plastic straws and encouraging the use of reusable cups.

UKH had partnered with other industry bodies such as the British Institute of Innkeeping to successfully raise awareness of the problems and promoted best practice and effective voluntary measures.

“But while we will highlight that progress to government, and our willingness to tackle waste issues, we must emphasise that any additional measures must be proportionate and that further taxes on an already burdened sector are likely to undo that good work. Any new DRS measures introduced must also be consistent with those due to be introduced in Scotland,” she said.

“We regret that the government is publishing so many consultations so close to Brexit. As we, and other industry bodies have stated, businesses can’t just carry on as usual when there is so much uncertainty. It is unhelpful to face yet more obstacles when we all need to be working on Brexit.”

Michael Gove, environment secretary, said: “We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste.”

Philip Hammond, chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “Plastic packaging makes up two-thirds of all the plastic waste that pollutes this country and wreaks havoc on our environment.

“It’s our responsibility to do something about it and that’s why we will introduce a new tax on the producers of plastic packaging that don’t use enough recycled material.”

Related topics: Legislation

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