Initiatives to reduce waste are more abundant and global than ever. The UK has the Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR), which have equivalents in other countries, like the Extended Producer’s Responsibility (RAP) in Spain.
This regulation was actually created in 1997, so it is not new, but it is constantly updated with directives to ensure that more producers bear the cost of recycling waste.
The purpose of the Packaging Waste Regulations is for companies to take more responsibility for the environmental impact of the packaging they supply by requiring them to pay for the collection and disposal costs of this packaging.
Following the latest update, over 7,000 producers in the UK have registered to comply with this producer’s responsibility according to the new terms and conditions. This regulation is described in more detail below.
PACKAGING WASTE REGULATIONS IN THE UK TODAY
The original Packaging Waste Regulations have been superseded three times:
PACKAGING WASTE REGULATIONS 1997
The concept of ‘producer’s responsibility‘ was introduced in Great Britain in 1997 (in Northern Ireland it would take another 2 years).
It was the first time that regulations made producers liable for bearing part of the cost of recycling their products or waste.
PACKAGING WASTE REGULATIONS 2007
It was not for another 20 years though that the regulations officially became the Producer Responsibility Obligations, in 2007. These are still in force today.
These regulations are based on the principle of collective responsibility, in other words, any company that produces or uses packaging must assume some of the recovery or recycling costs.
PACKAGING WASTE REGULATIONS 2023
The year 2023 is also proving to be a defining moment. From now, companies must gather all of the required information about their packaging to comply with their recycling obligations.
The official start date was 1 January 2023, proposing that companies register to comply with the Extended Producer’s Responsibility from July of the same year.
The plan is expected to be fully rolled out by 2027.
One of the main reasons driving this initiative is that, although recycling rates have been good since 1997 and brought in substantial income, it still not enough, only covering 7% of the total cost of packaging waste management in the UK.
This has prompted proposals of an amendment to the Producer’s Extended Responsibility, which no longer only affects some organisations in the supply chain, but also individual companies that meet specific criteria.
Under this regulation, the companies it affects must assume the cost of packaging waste management and end-of-life management of certain products, like batteries and electronic equipment.
To prevent any companies that are legally obliged to register and fulfil this regulation from shirking their responsibilities, fines and penalties have been imposed. The heaviest fine so far has been £270,000.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WASTE?
Four business types qualify under the Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR):
- Raw material manufacturers: this includes manufacturers of corrugated cardboard material used to make cardboard boxes. They are responsible for 6% of recovery and recycling.
- Converters: of material into packaging products. They are responsible for 9% of recovery and recycling.
- Packers and fillers: companies that fill a box with a specific product for transit or delivery. They are responsible for 37% of recovery and recycling.
- Sellers: this is the category most affected by the regulation and includes retail shops. In general it covers any company that sells a product and packaging to the end user. They are responsible for 48% of recovery and recycling.
IS YOUR BUSINESS AFFECTED BY THE PPWR?
There are a couple of questions you need to answer to find out whether your business needs to comply.
- Turnover: Did your turnover exceed more than £2 million last year?
- Handling: Did your company handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging in the last calendar year?
If you answer yes to both of the above, then you have an obligation to adhere to the packaging regulations.
At this point we need to define what ‘packaging’ and ‘handling’ mean.
In this regulation, ‘packaging‘ is any item used for the containment of goods. It also covers the handling, delivery and/or presentation of goods. This definition covers transit from the producer to the end user.
‘Handling‘ packaging covers any packaging placed onto the UK market. This definition includes imports but does not include exports.
HOW DOES A BUSINESS COMPLY WITH THE PPWR?
To comply with the PPWR, the business must follow these steps:
You must register with the appropriate Environment Agency directly, or you can do so through a third-party company. You need to register by 7th April each year.
The appropriate agencies to register with for each region are as follows:
- England: Environment Agency
- Scotland: Scottish Environment Protection Agency
- Wales: Natural Resources Wales
- Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Environment Agency
The business must submit data for the weight of packaging they handled in the past year.
The business must calculate the amount of packaging waste and the associated recovery and recycling cost.
Anyone who supplies packaging to an end user must also provide customers with information about recycling.
WASTE MANAGEMENT FEE
The business may be subject to paying a waste management fee.
The business must provide evidence of recycling, in the form of Packaging Waste Recycling Notes (PRN), to comply with its obligations.
The business must also buy Packaging Waste Export Recycling Notes (PERN) if necessary.
In conclusion, the Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR) in the UK are a big step forward in responsible packaging waste management.
Since the new terms and conditions have been introduced, many businesses have registered to comply with these regulations, reducing the environmental impact and contributing to sustainability.
If your business meets the turnover and handling criteria mentioned above, you must take a close look at the PPWR obligations and take measures to comply with them.
Not only will you be helping to build a more sustainable world, you will also avoid having to pay fines while improving your reputation and corporate responsibility.