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UK Packaging Waste Regulation Reform - first consultation responses published

UK Packaging Waste Regulation Reform - first consultation responses published

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by Bob Watling, July 2019
Bob Watling is a Senior Consultant in thinkstep's Recycling Compliance business unit and supports thinkstep’s substance declarations web database system, BOMcheck.
Earlier this year, EC4P reported that the first four major consultations promised in the UK government’s Resource Waste Strategy had been published, which included a consultation on reforming the UK packaging producer responsibility system.  This consultation closed on 13 May 2019 and the responses to it have now been published

The government reports that there were 679 separate responses and 34 campaign responses to the consultation, with strong support for policy proposals to introduce an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) scheme for packaging.  As a result, the government now intends to introduce such a scheme by 2023, replacing the current PRN (Packaging Recovery Note) system. 

Will producers bear full financial responsibility for waste packaging?


EC4P made particular note in its earlier news article that the government’s proposal in the consultation to reform the definition of full net cost recovery and approaches to recovering full net costs from producers, would mean that effectively, businesses who use packaging and who are best placed to influence its design (i.e. industry) would bear full financial responsibility for waste packaging collection, sorting, treatment and disposal.  Currently, only a fraction of this activity is financed by industry through the PRN system.  However, there would be differences between household and household-like packaging waste, and waste packaging from commercial / industrial applications.

Most respondents to the consultation (74%) agreed to the government’s suggestion that companies who handle household and household-like packaging in the UK should be 100% financially responsible for waste packaging collection, sorting, treatment and disposal, but companies who handle commercial / industrial packaging should not be, because companies already incur the cost of managing this.  

There were a minority of respondents (28%) who thought that household and household-like packaging and commercial / industrial packaging financial responsibilities should not be separated in this way, because it is often difficult to identify where the source of packaging waste will be.  EC4P draws clear comparisons to challenges with the German packaging regulations and differences in requirements for ‘Sales’ packaging (packaging that is disposed of by ‘private end-users’) and ‘Transport (and Commercial Sales)’ packaging, where there is a much greater financial burden on producers who place Sales packaging on the market.

Who might be obligated under the new EPR scheme?


Currently, the PRN system which finances partial packaging waste costs is shared between all those who handle packaging in the UK – manufacturers of raw materials (6%), converters (9%), packer/fillers (37%), and sellers (48%).  Using this 'shared responsibility’ system, four different packaging producers could be jointly financially responsible for the same item of packaging.  

The government notes that whilst this system engages all companies in the packaging chain, the negative effect is that no single entity is truly incentivised to make packaging more recyclable or reduce the amount of packaging produced.

To the suggestions in the consultation that the UK moves towards making just one entity in the packaging chain financially responsible for waste packaging, most respondents (59%) responded positively, stating that the brand owner should be that one entity.  Not surprisingly, product manufacturers, packer/fillers and retailers would prefer to stick to the ‘shared responsibility’ approach.

What will happen next?


Nothing is changing for now.

The government will be studying the responses to the above consultation points (and all other consultations points) further. Greater analysis and engagement with all those who will be impacted by proposed changes to the packaging producer responsibility system will take place.  This will lead to more detailed proposals (to be consulted on again) with secondary legislation hopefully introduced in 2020.

How can you stay ahead of the changes and ensure your company (continues) to comply?


Please contact us if you would like to find out how EC4P can help your company manage your registration, collection, recycling and reporting obligations under the UK packaging regulations.  We can also help your company to stay abreast of changes to producer requirements in the UK over the next few years and beyond, plus meet further EU-wide and global packaging regulation obligations.