As political attitudes towards sustainability evolve in the lead-up to COP26, UK-based businesses will find themselves challenged to keep up with increasingly ambitious sustainability legislation. The ‘Producer Responsibility Regulations’ (also known as Packaging Waste Regulations) are a current example of this that, and organisations will need to adapt to if they produce, use or sell packaging products.
The packaging waste regulations are in place to ensure that businesses are responsible for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in the UK. If your business produced or handled more than 50 tonnes of packaging in the last year and you have a turnover of more than £2 million, you will need to comply with these regulations.
Your responsibilities and how to comply
To comply with the regulations you must:
- Register with the Environment Agency (either directly or through a compliance scheme) as a packaging producer. Impacted brands should have done this by April 7
- Recover and recycle specific tonnes of packaging waste each year. This became an obligation on January 1, 2021
- Obtain evidence of compliance and submit a certificate of compliance by January 31, 2022
Obligated businesses are required to produce evidence to meet their Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Obligations from accredited recyclers. A company’s obligation is a proportion of the packaging handled in one year. This means a business must calculate the tonnes of packaging it has handled in the previous year, by material.
This amount is validated by a PRN (Packaging Recovery Note), a type of document that provides evidence that waste packaging material has been recycled into a new product. The number of PRNs a business needs to purchase is dependent upon the amount of packaging handled, as well as the activity carried out on that packaging as each activity has a percentage associated with it.
Different recycling targets apply to different materials across seven main categories. These are as follows:
How to calculate your obligation
You must consider:
- The packaging activities that were carried out for the previous calendar year
- The material, subdivided into the seven main categories, their weight in tonnes and the activities they were used for
- The UK business targets for the current compliance year
Fees and costs associated with compliance
Your business will need to pay a fee that goes to the agency. This applies if you register with the appropriate environment agency, or as part of a scheme.
Is this system working?
Thousands of companies have now registered, some through a compliance scheme and others by registering directly with the appropriate agency.
There have been some prosecutions of businesses that have not registered and there have also been some for those that have misreported their obligations.
Civil sanctions are becoming increasingly common and agencies are checking registered producers to ensure data submission is accurate. They also aim to identify those who are ignoring their responsibilities.
What you can do today
Even if the Packaging Waste Regulations don’t affect you, it is still wise to do an audit as this can help you reduce the volume of packaging you use and in turn reduce your carbon footprint.
No matter its size, a business is not going to be able to rapidly transition to sustainable packaging. It is a lengthy, complicated process that touches everything from branding to logistics and will require developing relationships with new suppliers or altering relationships with current ones. However, packaging is a chance for meaningful positive action and businesses can start by making key strategic decisions to remove all plastics from their packaging and commit to using more recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials.
In the longer term, packaging presents huge opportunities for brands looking to drive sustainable innovation in their organisation. This can be achieved by partnering with innovative and certified suppliers and collaborating on a holistic approach to packaging that is unique to your business.
For more information on upcoming legislation, potential sustainable packaging partners, and how certification can keep your business ahead of changes like this, please contact us
Positive Luxury team working on this paper: Jacob Corner, Alessandra Ciarno and Diana Verde Nieto.