Extended Producer Responsibility - the perfect package

UK Government’s adoption of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) aims to achieve greater circularity. Packaging is the first waste stream to fall under EPR.

The success of TV programmes like Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ has helped catapult the problem of pollution in our natural ecosystems to huge global audiences. Ordinary people, politicians and corporates alike have been galvanised into tackling the damage that unrecycled plastic and other packaging waste products are causing our oceans, forests and wildlife. But viable solutions can be tricky when they hit the pressures of a volatile economy. According to B Corp, market-leading compliance scheme and environmental consultancy Beyondly (formerly Comply Direct), the reform of the existing UK packaging waste regulations to apply the EPR approach is a welcome enhancement, to propel us towards a circular economy in the UK.

Under the existing UK packaging waste regulations, multiple parties along the supply chain have to pay a proportion of the recycling costs for the packaging they make, use or sell. However, under the reformed packaging compliance system, from here referred to as packaging EPR (pEPR), the full net cost of household waste management and recycling will sit with one party within the supply chain. As a result of this shift, for the first time it will be brand-owners, not the taxpayer, who must pay the full net costs of the collection, sorting, and recycling of household packaging waste through their waste management fee.

Catherine Guy, Packaging Relationship Manager at Beyondly, explains; ‘the hope is that brand-owners faced with this new reality of a greater financial obligation will strive harder to design their packaging to make it easier for them to be reused, dismantled and/or recycled at end-of-life’. Under pEPR, more brand-owners will fall within scope, with a lower threshold being introduced to integrate smaller companies into the packaging compliance system; those with a £1million-plus turnover that place 25 tonnes or more packaging on the UK market annually.

The household packaging waste collection service was estimated in 2019to cost UK local authorities around £1.7bn a year, which under pEPR will be funded by brand owners and other obligated companies. Thus, the financial obligations under pEPR will be significant for brand-owners, which could lead to higher shop prices for the consumer if they look to pass on these extra costs. However, the waste management fee element of pEPR has been delayed until October 2025. “It appears more time is needed for the government to calculate the rate of the waste management fees under pEPR” Guy says.

Nevertheless, the pEPR requirement to produce more detailed and frequent packaging data to the regulator such as packaging type, weight and the nation into which it has been sold - nation data - has already come into force in 2023.

Beyondly can help brand-owner producers in all sectors with data collection, from food and beverage,
to retail, beauty, and manufacturing etc., as well as take over full responsibility of an organisation’s legal obligation and mitigate their packaging financial obligation ahead of 2025.

“Brand-owners know what they want to do when it comes to being more sustainable, but they struggle
to find ways to achieve it. Packaging EPR is complex and intricate. We can help businesses optimise their packaging design to achieve greater recyclability, as well as prepare for the modulation of waste management fees under pEPR. We want to increase their confidence and help producers get future proofed.” Guy explains.

The modulation of waste management fees means the fees charged to brand-owners will be adjusted based on the recyclability of their packaging, which will result in lower fees for companies using more recyclable packaging. Fee modulation is expected to be introduced in 2026, based on packaging placed on the UK market in 2025. “This will lead to increased data scrutiny such as the type of polymer used in your plastic packaging, but it brings the benefit of potentially reducing the financial burden,” Guy says. The incentive and opportunity to improve how we live on our planet is there. We must all grasp it.

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