Taking Out the Trash in the UK

New legislation requires businesses to pay for the waste they produce.


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The UK is talking trash. That's because the government has a plan to reduce waste that shifts the responsibility for disposal from the state to the companies that make it.

The legislation requires waste producers to pay into the system themselves or through their suppliers that is what the government termed, a‘’polluter pays’’ principal. Businesses will have until April 2022 to change their waste processing before the tax comes into play.

This is similar to the anti-waste legislation passed in France in February 2020, that prohibits the destruction of unsold clothing, cosmetics, hygiene products, and electrical products. Companies will have to reuse, recycle or redistribute the items according to Waste 360. France already has laws that bans supermarkets from throwing away unsold food.

Disposing of waste is a global problem and dealing with the over 2 billion metric tons of solid waste generated every year. The World Bank estimates that overall waste will increase to 3.4 billion tons if nothing is done to change the situation.

The demand for legislation like the tough stance the UK is taking has been increasing according to Positive News. And it is not just environmental groups calling for the changes. This is a consumer driven movement and people are willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

“Consumer behavior is definitely driving a lot of the change and we see this reflected in the initiatives and laws government bodies are implementing,” Josh Bowden, co-founder of noissue told Positive News. The company that creates sustainable packaging takes their environmentalism seriously and even plants a tree for every company that places an order.

Not all the details of the new waste legislation have been decided according to Positive News. But one thing that is known is that the plan includes bottle deposits, something that has been successful in other countries. What is absolutely certain is that local councils (municipalities) will save a lot of money as the responsibility shifts to the polluters.

“Local authorities spend around £700 million a year in England alone on cleaning up streets,” said Richard McIlwain, the chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy. “That’s money that could be better invested in things like social care or parks or libraries.”

Other countries have made great progress in reducing waste. Sweden’s recycling program is so efficient that the country is running out of trash. The recycling rate is almost 99 percent and they are rapidly approaching zero waste.

The EU approved a ban on single-use plastic in 2018 that includes the provision that 90 percent of plastic bottles must be recycled by 2025. This European-led initiative can be implemented around the globe.

Today, large companies are greening their brands and moving to sustainable packaging including Colgate, Waitrose, Nestlé, and Unilever which now has recyclable black packaging. The government of the UK hopes that other companies will follow their example.

A partnership between government legislation and private companies will go a long way to reducing the tons of waste going into our environment every year. Laws like the ones in the UK and France can be implemented around the world.

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