Common EPR mistakes

James Griffin, Valpak Environmental Compliance Advisor, has written an informative blog post that provides valuable insights into common mistakes made while completing the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging data form. This resource proves highly beneficial for our members.

At the time of writing, staff at Valpak are busy checking off the first-ever EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) for packaging submissions in the UK, so we thought it would be wise to compile a list of common mistakes to note.


Putting transit packaging in shipment packaging

This is a very understandable mistake, after all, transit and shipment are synonyms! This leads people to assume their triple wall card boxes, FIBCs, stretch wrap, and pallets are all shipment packaging. In fact, shipment packaging has an EPR-specific meaning, defined by Defra in the following way:

Shipment packaging is for shipping single or multiple sales units directly to consumers. This includes cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, and mailbags.

They go on to give an example:

If you place a mobile phone in a cardboard box and then place the box into a mailbag before shipping it, the shipment packaging is a ‘mailbag’. The primary packaging is a ‘cardboard box’.

It helps to get your definitions straight before filling in the form so that you don’t get confused by EPRisms like this, remember:

  • If you don’t sell things online, it probably isn’t shipment packaging
  • If you are inputting data for a business-to-business sale, it probably isn’t shipment packaging
  • If you are declaring it on the Importer table, it probably isn’t shipment packaging


Unbranded packaging on the Brand Owner table

Nothing raises a compliance advisor’s eyebrow quicker than seeing tertiary packaging on the Brand Owner table. This is because the Brand Owner table is only for packaging carrying your brand. Typically, this means the primary packaging is on the brand owner table, but the more often plain secondary and tertiary packaging is on the Packer/Filler or Importer table.

For example, if you import and sell pallets loaded with plain boxes filled with trainers in branded shoe boxes, it will look like this:

Brand owner: shoe boxes.
Importer: plain boxes and pallets.

Or if you manufacture and pack these shoes in the UK, like this:

Brand Owner: shoe boxes.
Packer/Filler: plain boxes and pallets.

Now you have removed all unbranded packaging from your table I have to admit to a white lie: some unbranded packaging can be on this table: But only the plain packaging is associated with the branded primary packaging. In this example, the paper stuffed into and around the shoes also counts as Brand Owner.


Numbers not matching last year’s

New regulations mean new spreadsheets, and with all these new formulae mistakes are bound to happen. I recommend looking at your 2022 packaging form, which can be accessed from your member’s area, and getting a sense-check for where your numbers should be. Remember to convert from tonnes to kg, and half it for a 6-month sample.

Sometimes this is simple, for example, the Shared Producer Responsibility Regulations had Table 3B, “Packaging Removed from Imports”, a table that exists unchanged in EPR. For some, it is not so easy: like when the new activity Brand Owner takes numbers away from your Packer/Filler, or Importer tables. I would recommend doing what you can to make the numbers comparable, you don’t want to be searching for faulty formulae when it’s time to submit.


Putting all imports on the Importer table

Another very understandable mistake is that few imports are correctly placed on the Importer table. In EPR, to be an Importer is the same as Table 3a Selling on the Shared Producer Responsibility Regulations. It means you import filled packaging and then sell that packaging on filled in that same packaging. If you unpack after import, this goes on the Removed from Imports table, not the Importer table. If you are importing goods with your brand on, that goes on the Brand Owner table, not the importer table.

Take our branded trainers from earlier, we might unpack them from their outer boxes and pallets to sell them on in their individual boxes, that means we are reporting the outer boxes and pallets as Removed from Imports, and the box itself (and filler) is on the Brand Owner table. This leaves nothing on the Importer table. This is totally normal and quite common.


Am I a distributor? (Probably not!)

Distributor is another confusing EPRism, plenty of our clients described themselves as distributors prior to EPR, so it is tempting to check that box and put some numbers in. But wait, under EPR, a distributor is a packaging manufacturer or importer who sells empty packaging. Specifically, empty packaging to an entity that can’t be held obligated for packaging: non-Large Producers, and charities.

As we see with shipment packaging, importers, and distributors; a common problem is that people load up the new form and try and work it out on the go. They often get overwhelmed by all the different options and are led astray by words that meant something else before EPR. I recommend you get a good sense of what the terms mean and what you plan on filling in before loading up the submission.