Packaging EPR: Updates, amendments, and unanswered questions


extended producer responsibility

Louisa Goodfellow, Policy Manager at Ecosurety, examines the state of Extended Producer Responsibility in the UK and the many unanswered questions about the scheme.

Updates surrounding the emerging Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system have continued in the first quarter of this year, from a myriad of sources, albeit with key questions still unanswered.

Amendments to the existing EPR data regulations currently making their way through parliament and set to become legislation at the end of this month cover several technical aspects of the emergent EPR system.

Louisa Goodfellow
Louisa Goodfellow, Policy Manager at Ecosurety.

This includes a crucial rethinking of the definition of household packaging. The existing definition obligates packaging such as beer kegs and industrial drums as “likely to end up in households” – and therefore liable to pick up an EPR waste management fee.

However, once the new amendments are passed, packaging of this type may be excluded after industry concerns that the existing classification was too blunt to be reasonable.

These amendments also tweak several other rules around data reporting, such as the definition of a drink container. Although these changes to the technical aspects of EPR are largely necessary, they likely hamper regulator efforts to ensure good coverage of industry understanding of the system.

This may be reflected by recent registration figures that fall short of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) estimation of obligated producers, with around 1,000 “missing” businesses. This may be due to the Regulatory Position Statement, released last year, that essentially extends the deadline for reporting 2023 packaging data until the end of May 2024.

So, while there may be a flurry of registration and data submissions in the next two months, there is nonetheless the possibility that the new regulations need much more time to become embedded, clearly understood and communicated to become a successful and equitable system.

This is not helped by the fact that the most important piece of information that liable businesses need at this point is yet to be published. The estimated “base fees” – an average cost per material that local authorities incur for managing waste to be reimbursed by registered packaging producers – are yet to be released, despite Defra indicating they will do so at the earliest opportunity.

Packaging being placed on the market this year will have costs attached to it in 2025, and given the billions of pounds these new fees will add to the packaging producer responsibility system, it is critical that businesses can start budgeting now.

We know the policy intent is that after the first year of fees being charged, they will be modulated about packaging recyclability.

Compliance schemes and other experts can use available data to give the best estimations, but without a clear steer on charges from Defra and the emergent Scheme Administrator, it’s understandable that industry is frustrated at the “blank cheque” status of next year’s fees.

Furthermore, we know the policy intent is that after the first year of fees being charged, they will be modulated about packaging recyclability. This will require further changes to packaging data that will need to be submitted by producers – the details of which are again unknown.

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Whilst it’s fair to say that we have a better understanding of the system now than we did last year, the fact that crucial elements of the system are yet to be developed or widely understood is adding to both confusion and perhaps disengagement around EPR.

This will only be remedied by clear and equitable decision-making by policymakers that is communicated to businesses early enough for them to comply, particularly when it comes to costs.



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