Nations come together to urge Governments to put litter at the heart of new ‘polluter pays’ scheme

Environmental charities from all four nations are leading the call for litter payments to form a key component of the UK Government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms

Together with Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Scotland Beautiful, and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, we have written to the Environment Ministers at the Senedd, Westminster, Holyrood, and Stormont to ask them to ensure that litter is made part of any new EPR scheme.

We have been backed by more than 40 other organisations including Marine Conservation Society, Landscape Institute, the Women’s Institute and RSPCA in their call for packaging producers to be fully held to account over litter caused by their products, with litter payments made a key component of the Government’s EPR plans.

"Litter payments in EPR could be a game-changer"

We believe the EPR scheme offers a meaningful chance to tackle the root causes of many environmental problems by fully adopting the “polluter pays” principle. This underpins the proposals by shifting the costs of pollution onto those who profit from placing large amounts of packaging on the market.

The UK Government, Welsh Government, Scottish Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland had proposed that under the forthcoming EPR system, producers would be made responsible for the full net costs of managing packaging waste, including bin and ground litter management costs.

But it is understood the Government and policymakers are now under substantial pressure to exclude litter payments entirely from the EPR plans, based on a “flawed narrative” that it is only the public who is to blame for litter.

We’re proud to be working with the other UK nations to help ensure producers are held to account for poorly designed, excessive and unnecessary packaging. Recent street cleanliness surveys revealed the full extent of our packaging problem, with littered packaging found on 64% of streets in Wales. Currently, the responsibility for tackling this issue sits squarely with our already stretched local authorities and is a heavy financial burden on the public purse. We believe that litter payments in EPR could be a game-changer, transforming the way the private sector supports street cleansing, community action and litter prevention activities.

Lesley Jones
Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy

Sustainability consultants Eunomia recently estimated that the cost of managing littered packaging by local authorities is around £384m a year but this figure only reflects a fraction of the scale of the problem of littered packaging and the resources that are needed to address it.

It does not reflect the costs incurred by other duty bodies (such as transport and highways or rail authorities) or the contribution of litter picking volunteers, nor does it reflect the considerable funds and resources that are raised and allocated for litter prevention campaigns across the UK.

Finally, the figure does not include the cost to our environment of tonnes of plastic waste that is not captured by street cleansing and finds its way into our countryside and into our watercourses and, ultimately, our oceans.

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