EPR: What You Need to Know
Back in 2018, the UK government introduced the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging. EPR for packaging fees was initially scheduled to roll out in 2023 with full implementation set for 2024, but it’s been delayed by at least a year to October 2025. Although the EPR enforcement might have been pushed back, it’s important to get the right processes in place now to support your business’s transition.
What is the EPR Scheme?
The EPR is a legislative framework set to replace the current packaging waste regulations we have in the UK. As part of the EPR, producers are required to take full responsibility for the costs associated with managing the waste generated from their products’ packaging, starting from the moment these products enter the market until the end of their lifecycle. When rolled out, it will work on a tax system with multiple tiers of taxation organised into bands.
Due to the delay in starting the scheme, there won’t be any packaging fees to pay in 2024, but organisations must ensure that packaging data is reported for the preceding year, 2023. The goal of these regulations is to drive a significant reduction in the environmental footprint of products throughout their entire lifecycle.
Why Do We Need an EPR Scheme?
The scheme holds strong sustainable advantages, with the approach encouraging businesses to prioritise packaging recyclability and promote sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Consumers, businesses, and the government have become increasingly aware of the environmental damage of packaging waste, and the impact of plastic waste is under scrutiny like never before. The idea is that if you produce the pollution, then you should pay for the costs of both the environmental and health impacts. EPR makes packaging producers responsible for the entire cost of recycling the packaging they place on the market, from the cost of collecting the waste after use to its recycling.
Who Does the EPR Apply To?
If your business uses, handles, or imports packaging, then you are likely to be affected by the new packaging EPR legislation. But the actions that will need to be taken all depend on the size of your organisation.
To assist producers in understanding whether they are obligated under EPR, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has developed an online which is something you should look at as soon as possible to get prepared. EPR Obligation Checker which is something you should look at as soon as possible to get prepared.
Why is the Scheme Being Deferred?
The Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, has admitted that cost pressures on packaging producers, including higher energy and material costs, are among the reasons the scheme has been delayed. The government wants to avoid passing these costs on to households, and is therefore taking a cautious approach. However, many environmentalists are disappointed with the wait and argue that the government’s delayed implementation of the EPR scheme after five years is ‘ridiculous.’
The EPR scheme is just one of many recycling initiatives we’ve witnessed in the past few years. This month, a ban on single-use plastic is being implemented, and we also have the Plastic Packaging Tax, which was introduced in 2022. It seems that the UK government is progressively introducing these recycling programmes- perhaps they’ve done this to prepare the public and get them accustomed to the idea, like they did for adding a charge to shopping bags. In fact, there’s been a 98% reduction in the use of single-use supermarket plastic bags in England since this change came in back in 2015. This remarkable reduction highlights the idea that over time, people can adapt to positive initiatives, making them a natural part of our daily lives.
How Does the EPR Scheme Benefit Businesses?
The biggest benefit is that if your packaging is more recyclable, you could benefit from a more favourable tax treatment. The tax implications of a product mainly revolve around its recyclability at the end of its life. To put it simply, packaging that is designed for easy recycling is granted preferential tax treatment, while packaging that presents recycling challenges may result in higher tax liabilities. For those who have already taken proactive measures to enhance the recyclability of their packaging, this translates to reduced tax burdens. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the sustainability of your packaging now if you want to avoid unfavourable tax consequences down the line.
EPR Success Stories from Across the Globe
Research has looked into the influence of EPR on seven distinct paper and packaging recycling initiatives across the globe. The findings unveiled a notable trend: EPR policies accelerated the retrieval and recycling rates of specified materials to over 75% in regions such as British Columbia, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, and South Korea, while exceeding 60% in Portugal and Quebec.
These outcomes really highlight the effectiveness of the EPR in practice!
Get Prepared Now
The best thing you could do for yourself before the scheme comes into play is to get prepared now. Here’s our top 3 tips for doing so:
- Start reporting your packaging data.
Begin recording packaging data by the eight material types (plastic, paper/board, aluminium, glass, steel, wood, fibre-based composites and other). This is the best practice to start getting used to things before the scheme starts.
2. Keep up to date with any developments on the timeline of EPR.
As we already know, the scheme has been pushed back a year. So, keep a close eye on the timelines (and our blog!) in case any further changes are made.
3. Enhance the recyclability of your packaging now.
It’s really important to review your packaging options and how widely recycled your chosen packaging materials are. At Greyhound Box, we can help by performing a packaging review to highlight areas of your existing packaging that could be made more sustainable. Alternatively, we can help by creating an entirely new bespoke cardboard box to support your EPR transition.
If you need help getting ready for the EPR scheme, please reach out to us.