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UK Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging: consultation outcome

Earlier in 2021, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) held a second public consultation to seek input on plans to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility (“EPR”) to the UK’s legislative regime for product packaging. 

The aim of EPR for packaging is to establish a legislative framework in order to incentivise producers to make more sustainable product design decisions, in particular those which make it easier for product packaging to be re-used or recycled at the end of its life. It is proposed that this is achieved by placing the financial cost of package waste management on producers, which represents a shift to a ‘polluter pays’ model, and increasing the data reporting requirements imposed on producers. 

This marks a notable change from the current regime (the Packaging Waste Regulations, 1997), which was designed to meet packaging waste recycling targets whilst keeping business compliance costs low. The initial proposals received a ‘green light’ following the first public consultation, run from 18 February 2019 to 13 May 2019. 

The second consultation primarily sought views on the proposal’s design, governance, implementation timelines and enforcement mechanics. As a result of the feedback received, DEFRA have confirmed that, amongst others, regulations will be drafted to cover the following aims:

  • producers to pay the costs of managing household packaging waste; 
  • modulated fees to be imposed on different packaging materials in order to incentivise the use of recyclable packaging; 
  • mandatory labelling of packaging for recyclability, with a single labelling format; and
  • annual packaging waste recycling targets to be set for 2030. 

It is intended that the new regulations will be drafted this year, in order to ensure that EPR for packaging will come into force from the target date of 2024 onwards.

[The new law] will mean that packaging producers will pay the full cost of managing packaging once it becomes waste. This will encourage producers to use less packaging and use more recyclable materials, reducing the amount of hard to recycle packaging placed on the market.

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