The reform of packaging and packing waste requirements in the UK has been debated for many years and continues but with significant change now here. Following consultations, all 4 nations have introduced extended producer responsibility for packaging to promote the circular economy by incentivising change in the type and amount of packaging handled in the UK and to ensure full net cost recovery for local authorities for “household waste”. The approach adopted creates (i) new obligations in relation to data gathering and reporting (ii) alongside existing PRN/PERN requirements, a new fee for packaging destined to be “household waste” to a new scheme administrator and establishment of machinery around the payment and distribution of the fee proceeds to local authorities. Separate mirror regulations implement the reporting requirements (the “Data Reporting Regulations”) in all 4 nations with obligations in force from 28 February 2023 for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with Wales to follow shortly.
The Data Reporting Regulations are the first step in the EPR timeline, requiring certain producers to collect and report their packaging data. The data will be used to calculate the fees payable to cover the cost of managing their packaging from 2024. The regulations which will contain remaining EPR provisions including fees will not be in force until December 2023. From 2025 modulated fees are expected and mandatory takeback of fibre-based composite cups. From 2026 packaging labelling requirements and recycling targets for fibre-based packaging materials will trigger and by March 2027 plastic films must be labelled ‘recycle’ or ‘do not recycle’ and collected at kerbside.
Data Collection Obligations
“Producer” is defined widely to include, persons performing any one or more of the functions in the UK: Brand owner, Packer / filler, Importer, Distributor, Online marketplace operator, Service provider or Seller. They exclude charities and those not established in the UK. Requirements apply depending on the size of organisation.
Packaging covers primary, secondary, shipment or transit packaging (all defined). “Household packaging” is packaging which is not supplied to a business which is the final user of that packaging. All primary packaging and shipment packaging is to be treated as household packaging unless the producer supplying that packaging can show that it has been supplied to a business which does not supply to any other person (a) the packaging; or (b) the product which the packaging contains in its packaged form. A product is to be treated as being sold in its packaged form unless all packaging is removed from the product before it is sold to the final user of that product.
Large producers are those with an annual turnover of more than £2m and who handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging each year. Small producers are those have an annual turnover of more than £1m and handle more than 25 tonnes of packaging per year but are under the large producer criteria (alone or in aggregate if a group). Those with turnover of under £1m or less than 25 tonnes are not obligated.
(Image from DAERA presentation).
The data collection obligations are to maintain for each data collection period, and to retain for at least 7 years, records of various information which includes:
- Packaging supply activity
- Packaging material and weight
- Packaging type (primary, secondary, shipment or transit)
- Waste type.
Data Reporting Obligations
Large producers must report every 6 months. The first report must be made for the 6-month period ending on 30 June 2023 (or if insufficient data to report on the period from 1 January 2023, the period from 1 March 2023 to 30 June 2023) and be submitted on or before 1 October 2023. Small producers submit data once per year, firstly between 1 January and 1 April 2024 to cover 2023 packaging.
If an obligated producer has all of the required data recorded from 1 January 2023, this data should be reported. However, if this data is not recorded, data reported covering a period from 1 March will be used to calculate a full year’s worth of data. This will influence the fees to be paid in 2024.
Producers who are members of a registered Producer Compliance Scheme are exempt from their data reporting obligations if they provide the PCS with relevant information and pay their membership fee. A producer that carries out collections of primary and shipment packaging materials, returned by household consumers (for example through takeback or post back schemes) for recycling can report this amount to be offset against their household costs obligations. Any packaging that is covered by Scottish Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will not be reportable.
By 1 December 2024 nation data (information where in the UK, packaging has been sold, hired, loaned, gifted or discarded) is required where criteria are met.
Presently, obligated large producers will be liable for packaging waste management fees from April 2024. Defra expects that fees will be calculated during the first quarter of the financial year (April-June) based on producer data submissions covering the previous calendar year. Producers will be notified of their liabilities, with invoicing by the scheme administrator expected to start during quarter two (July-September). For local authorities the additional income should be welcome but for both local authorities and producers alike, the details of the methodology for packaging to be reported and the calculation of fees will be crucial.
Awareness, consistency and clarity are key components needed given this significant reform. Given the extent of change, queries raised to government should be dealt with promptly and carefully to provide certainty for all. Amongst other information needed, it is hoped that the methodology for charges is shared quickly so that provisions can be made for the new fee given the proposed timescales.
A version of this article was first published in the CIWM Journal Circular.