Communications, education and awareness have always been high on the list of essential items needed to support strong recycling activity. The Circular Economy goals will no doubt require continued efforts and resources into this area also. People need to know what is being asked of them, how to play their part correctly and where they can join in. They also need to know how they can support collections, return systems and enter into the new thinking of the Circular Economy.
The Valpak Packflow 2025 research and report highlighted that consistent consumer communications has played a key role in supporting many of the longer established producer responsibility systems across Europe. It is widely viewed as a key factor in maximising quality separation and participation of both the public and businesses in existing collection systems. The report looked at how the existing system in the UK could evolve and set a mechanism which would generate a fund to support communications. In very simple terms, the suggestion was to levy a modest fee for all companies, regardless of size, who handle packaging. The requirement to register and report would be greatly simplified to ensure the least burden on small businesses.
The benefits of this idea are thought to be:
- It raises the awareness of packaging amongst all businesses so that they can pay their share
- Generates a fund of approximately £20 million per annum
This would allow for a nationally coordinated programme of activity including, for example material specific targeting, specific messages around “issues” as well as local and community campaigns. Many other schemes have a strong schools and education focus and I am sure that this is an option to look at also for the UK.
The strength of this idea is that it preserves Local Authority flexibility to conduct their own variations and minimise confusion to consumers but also compliments their activities and guides them. The CIO (Consumer Information Obligation) element of producer responsibility has always been an area within the regulations which could be improved and enhanced. It has delivered bank locator technology and brands such as www.recycle-more.co.uk and a great deal of helpful support to householders and business, but the scope to date has been relatively limited.
The new proposal would allow for significantly increased funding in this area fairly spread amongst a wide range of producers.