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Resources and Waste Strategy for England

Protecting people and planet

At WRAP, we believe there need to be fundamental changes to incentivise businesses, local government and citizens to do the right thing to protect our environment, particularly to address stagnating recycling rates, and tackle the environmental impacts of food and plastic waste.

Without serious collaborative action, it will not be possible to achieve the national and international ambitions laid out in the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the Circular Economy Package, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2018, the UK Government unveiled its Resources and Waste Strategy for England – a landmark policy blueprint which has the potential to transform the way resources and waste is managed in the future. It has been designed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, to support an effective and well-functioning domestic recycling infrastructure and to tackle the significant challenges of plastic pollution and food waste.

We worked closely with the UK government on the modelling and evidence base to inform the development of the Strategy.

Understanding the Strategy

The main elements of the Strategy are:

Introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

The proposed introduction of several EPR regimes – starting with packaging and extending to other waste streams later on – means moving to a system where producers pay the full net costs of dealing with the packaging waste they produce, in line with the Polluter Pays Principle and the Circular Economy Package. This will drive up recycling rates and should lead producers to design better products and packaging. 

Consistent collections – driving up recycling

Given the stagnation of household waste recycling figures in England over the last few years, there is a comprehensive package of ambitious proposals in the Strategy aimed at achieving greater consistency in collections and driving up recycling – something that WRAP has been working on for several years.

They include proposals for all local authorities to collect a consistent range of materials to a minimum service standard. This will play an important role in reducing confusion for householders, enabling clearer labels on packaging, increasing recycling rates and improving material quality, especially when put alongside the proposals for mandatory weekly food waste collections.

Our work over the years has demonstrated a strong business case for weekly food waste collections from households and businesses. And for the first time the Strategy also sets out proposals to require businesses to present recycling separately from residual waste.

It is important that all local authorities are funded to help implement these requirements, whether through finance raised by the proposed EPR scheme for packaging or otherwise. WRAP is supporting Defra on the design and implementation of the measures. 

Tackling food and plastic waste

There are several measures aimed at tackling the environmental impacts of both food and plastic waste in the Strategy.

The strong focus on food waste articulates what the Government expects businesses, local authorities, and others to do so that the UK can achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal target 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030. In particular, the proposals to introduce mandatory food waste reporting for food businesses has the potential to accelerate engagement with WRAP’s pioneering Food Waste Reduction Roadmap which shows how the UK food industry can implement a strategy to help halve UK food waste by 2030.

The Strategy offers several measures to address the huge challenge of plastic pollution. These include the EPR reforms for packaging, the introduction of a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic to stimulate demand, and measures to cut the consumption of single-use plastics. The package of proposals closely aligns with and will accelerate progress on The UK Plastics Pact.

Consultation papers

There have to date been four consultation papers on key policy proposals within the strategy. Read the papers on the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and HM Treasury websites:

WRAP's response to the Resources and Waste Strategy publication

WRAP responds to the publication of the Resources and Waste Strategy by Dr Marcus Gover, CEO

Read the blog post

New ambitions and a new Resources and Waste Strategy

A blog by Dr Peter Maddox, Director of WRAP UK.

Read the blog post