What are my packaging responsibilities?
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on the Packaging Regulations. If you require any further assistance, or would like to find out more about our packaging compliance scheme, get in touch with our team on 0845 129 7177.
1) How do I know if my business is obligated under the packaging regulations?
2) What are my responsibilities as a packaging producer?
3) What evidence of recovery or recycling must I provide?
4) What are my options for registering as a packaging producer?
5) What fees are involved when I register as a packaging producer?
6) What is packaging?
7) What is a Small Producer?
8) What if I don’t comply with the Packaging Regulations?
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations were introduced in 1997 to ensure businesses are responsible for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in the UK and reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfill.
Businesses that produce or handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging in a year AND have a turnover of more than £2 million are obligated under the regulations and must meet annual recycling targets related to the packaging type and weight for which the business is responsible. If a business belongs to a group of companies, these requirements apply to the total amount of packaging handled by the group and the group's total annual turnover.
A business must provide data for the weight of packaging handled in the previous year by material type. Packaging targets are then applied and the company must obtain ‘evidence’ that an equivalent weight has been recycled over the year.
Businesses can join a producer compliance scheme such as ours and pay an annual membership fee or register direct with the Environment Agency.
If you register with a producer compliance scheme, they will guide you through the process, assist with documentation, provide expert advice and support with EA correspondence. Your data is verified before it’s submitted to the EA and your scheme will handle your online submission using the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD). The scheme will also purchase your obligated PRNs (Packaging Recovery Notes). They are able to give you the best price for PRNs because the scheme buys in bulk.
There are three main responsibilities for those businesses obligated under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations:
- Businesses must register with the Environment Agency (EA), either directly or through an approved packaging compliance scheme such as ours. The producer must pay a fee to the Environment Agency and submit packaging data for the obligated year, either to the Environment Agency or to a compliance scheme.
- Businesses must take reasonable steps to recover and recycle specific tonnages of packaging waste each year.
- By 31 January, businesses must certify that they have recovered and recycled the necessary tonnage of packaging waste for the obligated year.
The ‘evidence’ of recovery or recycling is known as Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs). PRNs are certificates of evidence that prove a tonne of packaging waste has been recovered and reprocessed or exported. They are generated by accredited businesses that export material for recycling and are obtained from accredited sites that reprocess material.
PRNs are purchased at a price that relates to supply and demand. Where businesses join a producer compliance scheme, the scheme will purchase their obligated PRNs (Packaging Recovery Notes) on their behalf.
PRNs are a commodity traded on the open market, which means their prices fluctuate. If you are a member of a producer compliance scheme, the purchasing of PRNs is arranged for you and because they buy in bulk you can get the best price.
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations state that if a company or group exceeds £2m in turnover during their financial year AND handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging in a year, they are deemed a producer of packaging and are required to register with the Environment Agency (EA). This can be a combined registration for the company group or individually for the parts that handle packaging. Businesses can join a producer compliance scheme and pay an annual membership fee or register direct with the Environment Agency (EA).
If you register with a producer compliance scheme, they will guide you through the process, assist with documentation, provide expert advice and support with EA correspondence. Your data is verified before it’s submitted to the EA and your scheme will handle your online submission using the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD).
The scheme will also purchase your obligated PRNs (Packaging Recovery Notes), giving you the best price because the scheme buys in bulk.
The costs of registering as a packaging producer vary depending on whether you choose to register through a packaging compliance scheme or direct with the Environment Agency, as a full producer or small producer, as a group or individually or if you have any registered subsidiaries who handle packaging.
If you register through a scheme you will pay a scheme membership fee and Environment Agency (EA) fees.
If you choose to register direct with the Environment Agency, you will have no scheme membership fee, but you will need to allocate the time required for staff to prepare and complete all the required documentation and legal requirements along with the knowledge of the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) system.
If you have any registered subsidiary companies that handle packaging, you will also need to consider these and additional EA fees may apply.
Once the registration process is complete, your packaging obligation has to be met by purchasing Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs). The ‘evidence’ of recovery or recycling is known as Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs). PRNs are certificates of evidence that prove a tonne of packaging waste has been recovered and reprocessed or exported. They are a commodity traded on the open market, which means their prices fluctuate. If you are a member of a packaging compliance scheme, the purchasing of PRNs is arranged for you and because schemes buy in bulk, they can get the best price.
The basic definition of packaging is ‘all products made of any materials of any nature that are used for; containment, protection, handling, delivery or presentation’.
Most packaging is obvious i.e. boxes, crates, bags, bottles, shrink wrap etc. and can be separated into one of the six material types - paper, glass, aluminium, steel, plastic and wood. There are some items that fall into the ‘other’ category, such as fabric, rope, silica gel, foam, ceramics etc.
The following packaging does not need to be included in your obligation:
- Packaging you do not carry out an activity on.
- Re-usable packaging on its second or subsequent trip.
- Second hand packaging (unless it is imported).
- Packaging you do not own.
- Process waste.
Since January 2005, producers with a turnover of less than £5m have had the option of using an alternative registration process which simplifies the gathering of data.
These ‘small producers’ do not have to calculate their data ‘as accurate as reasonably possible’. By submitting data on the amount of packaging handled in the previous year, they can simply submit evidence of turnover, which is then used to calculate their recycling obligation using a simple formula - ‘tonnes per million pounds of turnover’. This option will only apply obligation to a single material, whichever is deemed to be the predominant type of packaging used. This is called the allocation method.
Producers who choose to use the allocation method must do so for a minimum of 3 years, unless their turnover exceeds £5 million during that time, in which case they will have to revert to the previous data collation method. Producers who fluctuate around £5 million turnover will need to ensure that they still gather data if they are likely to go above the threshold in the following year.
Small producers pay a reduced Environment Agency fee as the agencies believe that there is a reduced demand on their compliance monitoring.
The Environment Agency has access to all companies registered either directly or with a packaging compliance scheme. They carry out audits of businesses that are not registered to determine whether the company has an obligation, and if so, why they have not registered. Failure to comply with the Packaging Regulations is a criminal offence and can result in prosecution and heavy penalties. Many businesses have already been successfully prosecuted, with fines over £250,000. If you think you may be obligated, contact our specialist team for advice and a free no-obligation quote.
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