Law and Legislation

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Protecting the environment is a central part of UK law. The following list outlines the policies in place to reduce plastic and packaging waste.

The Environment Act (1990)

This Act imposes a ‘Duty of Care’ on organisations to ensure any waste produced is handled efficiently to reduce reliance on landfill.

The Landfill Tax Regulations (1996)

Under these regulations, a landfill tax was introduced to encourage organisations to produce less waste, dispose of less waste and recover value from waste produced.

The Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations (2007)

These regulations were introduced to reduce the amount of packaging waste disposed of to landfill. The regulations affect any organisation with an annual turnover exceeding £2 million which handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging waste every year.

The organisation must complete an annual submission to its environmental regulator detailing the volume and type of packaging handled, as well as how much has been recovered or recycled.

During 2019, the regulations will be updated to increase the responsibility of manufacturers and suppliers to reduce packaging waste.

The Waste Regulations (2011)

Under these regulations, it is a legal requirement for organisations to implement the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy gives priority to waste prevention, followed by re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery, and last of all, landfill disposal.

EU Legislation (2018)

In January 2018, the EU released the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. The strategy strives to protect the environment from plastic pollution and transform the way plastic products are designed, used and recycled in the EU. Under this strategy, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be made recyclable by 2050, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of micro-plastics will be restricted.

In October 2018, the European Parliament voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics. All existing EU environmental legislation will be retained in the UK under the EU Withdrawal Act (2018).

October Budget (2018)

In October 2018, the UK government pledged to tax all plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic. This legislation will come into effect from April 2022.