Deposit return scheme: consultation response published
The Government has published the results of a consultation on implementing a deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers. The idea of the scheme is to incentivise recycling through small cash deposits placed on containers, which people could get back through returning containers to ‘reverse vending machines’. The machines would be located at designated sites, such as supermarkets. 83% of respondents to the consultation were in favour of the system. Environmentalists are disappointed that the scheme would only include plastic bottles and aluminium cans, but not glass bottles.
The Government is launching a consultation on energy-efficient lighting, aiming to cut energy use and emissions in homes and businesses. Under the proposals, lighting in both domestic and non-domestic properties across the UK would need to meet minimum performance standards that are higher than current EU legislation.
The standards would include only the most efficient LED bulbs being available in shops, making it easier for consumers to save energy at home. If adopted, the proposals would come into force in late 2023, with further increased minimum standards introduced from September 2027.
The UK Government has announced its plan to introduce a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) by 2027 for imported goods. This mechanism aims to impose a charge on specific products, ensuring they face a similar carbon price as those manufactured within the UK. The goal is to create a fair competitive landscape among regions with varying levels of decarbonisation efforts. Initially, this levy will impact imports of iron, steel, aluminium, fertiliser, hydrogen, ceramics, glass, and cement.
In 2023, the Government sought feedback on a carbon pricing mechanism, with strong support from UK manufacturers. They believed that such a policy would safeguard their businesses from being undercut by cheaper goods originating from countries with less rigorous environmental regulations. Further specifics about the mechanism, including the precise range of products covered, will undergo consultation in 2024.
Biodiversity Net Gain to become mandatory for large developments
The Environment Act 2021 mandates a 10% biodiversity net gain on all large domestic, commercial and mixed-use developments. This means that developers will need to deliver (with proof) a minimum uplift of 10% in the amount of biodiversity at the site, relative to its biodiversity prior to their intervention. The requirement was originally to be introduced in October 2023, but the Government recently pushed back implementation until January 2024. The legislation will also apply to small developments from April 2024.
The world’s first carbon border tariff has come into effect in the EU. Under this policy, importers of certain products like iron, steel, aluminium, cement, electricity, fertilizers, and hydrogen are now required to disclose the carbon emissions generated during the production of these goods. Starting in 2026, importers will have to acquire certificates to offset these emissions, ensuring fair competition with EU producers who purchase permits from the EU carbon market. This move is expected to have a significant impact on major trading partners of the EU, including the UK.
In a bid to tackle microplastic pollution, the European Union has enacted a ban on the sale of plastics less than 5mm in size, that do not break down or dissolve naturally. This includes glitter, including the kind often used in cosmetics, but biodegradable glitter is permitted. Whilst the UK is not affected, UK companies exporting to and selling in the EU must abide by the law. Retailers are allowed to continue selling old stock containing glitter until it is depleted.
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act came into law from October 2023 and introduces changes to the English planning system, including how powers are devolved to local authorities. The aim of the legislation is to speed up the planning system and encourage the building of new homes. Key changes include the replacement of the Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment regime with the Environmental Outcomes Report, which aims to streamline the assessment process. Section 106 payments will also be replaced with a new Infrastructure Levy. The Act gives Local Plans more weight in planning decisions, indicating that there would need to be strong reasons to override a Local Plan. An update to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will follow before the Act can fully take effect.
DEFRA calls for evidence to reform the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013
DEFRA has issued a call for evidence to back a revision of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013. The accompanying proposal document outlines potential modifications, including improved collections of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) from households financed by producers, introducing new producer obligations for online marketplaces and fulfilment houses, and addressing the environmental impacts of vaping products. The imminent ban of disposable vapes from sale is anticipated.
The insights gathered from this consultation will inform broader policy adjustments and advancements aimed at supporting the circular economy and meeting net zero obligations. Revisions to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations policy could commence as early as next year, with household collection potentially rolling out by 2026.
Biodiversity Regulations effective February 2024 for new development projects
The Environment Act of 2021 mandated that developers must provide evidence that their projects result in a net increase in on-site biodiversity. Effective from 12 February 2024, developers in England will need to achieve a 10% “Biodiversity Net Gain.” In certain instances, this net gain can be achieved through enhancements made in other locations, a process known as biodiversity offsetting. Smaller projects will not be required to demonstrate this until April 2024. Biodiversity net gain refers to making sure that when new developments happen, there’s more wildlife and nature in the area afterwards than before.
The EU Parliament has passed a directive aimed at prohibiting businesses from making misleading or ambiguous green claims targeted at consumers. The directive will mandate the evidence of claims with life-cycle data and will specifically address the validation of certification schemes, acknowledging the proliferation of eco-labels in the market as a source of confusion for the public. Claims such as ‘climate-neutral’ or ‘carbon-neutral,’ when reliant on offsets, are likely to be prohibited.
Similar to the UK’s Green Claims Code, organisations will be obligated to ensure that claims regarding a product’s positive environmental impact are accompanied by information about its negative impacts as well.
These changes are anticipated to take effect in 2026, providing EU member states with a two-year window to amend their respective laws accordingly.
The ban on single-use plastic items has come into force in England. The ban covers items such as plates, cutlery and certain types of polystyrene food containers and applies to retailers, food vendors, takeaway outlets and hospitality businesses. The ban does not apply to trays and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items, such as salads, as these will be included in the plans for an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme.
Organisations who produce or use packaging, or sell packaged goods may be obligated to follow rules to reduce the amount of packaging produced, reduce the amount of packaging going to landfill, and increase the amount of packaging waste that is recycled.
See DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) guidance to check if your organisation qualifies.
Building on these existing commitments, DEFRA will introduce further criteria for organisations through Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging to be implemented from 01 January 2023.