LARAC welcomes Defra's intention of more funding for LAs

LARAC has welcomed the intention from DEFRA to provide an injection of much needed funding for local authorities to meet the ambitious demands of the Resources and Waste Strategy, launched today. LARAC is pleased that DEFRA have committed themselves to introducing full cost recovery for products that end up in household waste. Currently councils bear 90% of the costs of dealing with these, totally going against the principle of producer responsibility. LARAC believes that the much sharper focus on product design, material simplification and design for recycling as proposed in the Strategy will go a long way to improving recycling rates and cutting consumer anger when faced with non-recyclable packaging.

LARAC is concerned about the focus on certain aspects of local authority operations, including Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), kerbside collections and issues proposed around food waste, garden waste and the possible implementation of a Deposit Return Systems (DRS) across the UK.

LARAC is seeking clarification from DEFRA on the definitions of what it means by “full net cost recovery” in relation to Extended Producer Responsibility as this is key to the level of funding available to local authorities. Given the failings of the current PRN system in providing funding to council collections, there is a worry from local authorities that reform of the packaging system will be insufficiently robust and may not adequately fund the changes required, keeping the burden on the public purse.

Carole Taylor, Chair of LARAC, said “The focus of the Strategy in redressing the balance of funding away from the public purse and on to the producers is welcome and does not come a moment too soon. LARAC led the way in calling for a new system of funding when it launched its policy paper on the subject earlier this year and it is heartening that DEFRA have listened to us. Of course, the devil will be in the detail of the consultations, but we will continue to work closely with DEFRA to support them through the next stages of this ground-breaking shift away from public sector reliance to producer accountability.”

Lee Marshall, CEO of LARAC, said “DEFRA have hinted that they want to be quite prescriptive in how local authority waste operations are carried out in the future. If the funding is not forthcoming to support this then their ambitions will not get off the ground and local authorities will be left deciding which services, be that libraries, day or leisure centres they will have to reduce to pay to meet these targets. This could be by far the biggest shift in waste policy since the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and we need to get it right. After years of austerity cuts and under-investment it could be the step change that is needed to build on the tremendous efforts and advances that local authorities have made in increasing recycling rates over the past 15 years”

LARAC has reservations about the prospect of mandated weekly food waste collections contained within the Strategy given there are no concrete proposals on how these will be funded. LARAC points out that numerous studies show introducing food waste collections results in increased costs to local authorities. There are instances where these increases cannot be offset by reductions in residual waste collections which are unpopular with the public. With no mention of how producer responsibility applies to food waste it is unclear how DEFRA anticipates these weekly collections will be funded. LARAC is also concerned about the proposals for HWRCs unless they are accompanied by additional resources.

LARAC views the introduction of “non-binding performance indicators” as an interesting development that could be seen by some as targets by the back door. LARAC is worried that if the intention is to hold local authorities to account, it will detract from the ethos of proper producer responsibility and put undue pressure and scrutiny on councils, taking it away from better and more intelligent product and packaging design.

LARAC has produced a Briefing document, sent to members this morning and also available to members here

Members read the full Government Strategy here